This week has brought with it a wave of heaviness, and all words seem empty.
Hurricane Harvey wiped out towns along the coast of Texas, and devastation flooded the streets of Houston. Families lost homes, possessions, and loved ones. Thousands of people gathered in shelters with what few items they could carry out with them.
I'm the social media manager for a non profit group, and have received numerous messages from people across the country looking for ways to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Organizations as far as Chicago asking where they can send care packages, women in Virginia offering to relocate for weeks at a time to provide hands on help.
I listened to dispatch calls of pregnant women who couldn't get out of their neighborhoods and were going into labor. Midwives providing free care to families across the state who are flooded in or evacuated & displaced.
Saw the videos all over Facebook of men and women loading up their vehicles and boats to travel to Houston to rescue people.
Read that again…they are rescuing people.
That reality alone overwhelms me. And I feel helpless.
It can be easy to wallow in our sadness for others. It’s even easier to turn off the news and go about our lives unaffected.
But neither actually helps anyone.
But what can be done? How do you respond to tragedy when you are hundreds of miles away? After some research, I realized there are so many options right here at my back door.
Find your local Salvation Army and ask them what they need. The Salvation Army here in my town let me know that they are trying to feed 2,300 evacuees from their kitchen. They also give out items like socks, shirts, underwear, hygiene kits and vouchers.
Do you have a skill that can be used to help volunteers or displaced families in your community? I’m a Licensed Midwife here in TX, and can provide free prenatal care or breastfeeding support to women. Do you have a service or skill that you can donate to victims? Crisis counselors are desperately needed in shelters. Can you help serve food? Offer time by helping to sort donations? Foster pets? Provide support to volunteers? Babysit for others who are on volunteer shifts? Can you pick up snacks to drop off at the nurses station of your local ER for care providers who may be working extra hours? What about donating blood to your local blood bank?
Rally your community. Take a look around and see if there are any groups in your area who are planning to take trips to devastated areas. Gather donations to send with them. It could be as simple as picking up an extra case of water at the store. Maybe adding another package of diapers or trash bags to your Amazon order this week. Cleaning out your tool shed to send usable shovels for cleanup efforts. Donate school supplies to school districts taking in extra children this year because of the flooding. Host a yard sale and donate the proceeds to relief groups. The possibilities are endless.
Open Your Doors. Do you have extra space in your home? Have a guest house currently sitting empty? AirBNB has set up an urgent accommodations site, where people can open their homes to evacuees from the storm.
Give financially. To some, this feels less personal than other volunteer opportunities. But the reality is, it’s going to take an incredible amount of resources to rebuild these cities. No amount is too small, and can have just as large of an impact as passing out bottled water. Here is a quick list of organizations who are on the ground right now responding to the crisis caused by Hurricane Harvey.
While this list of ideas is in no way exhaustive, my hope is that it provides a starting place for people to step out of their own comfort zone and make a difference.
Let’s be a generation of people that responds to crisis, that teaches our children about suffering and compassion, that strives to selflessly give of ourselves...and maybe, we can be a glimmer of hope to a hurting world.