Friday, September 19, 2008

In the Wake of Ike

Day 4
September 18

Volunteers at Gateway Community Church unload cleaning supplies delivered by World Vision.World Vision’s assessment team started the day off bright and early at Gateway Community Church in Houston, where volunteers from five churches were in the process of setting up a base camp of operations to manage Hurricane Ike relief efforts. The assessment team dropped off many cleaning supplies for the crews to take with them as they do their cleaning jobs.

Pastor Mike Malkenes says the supplies will be helpful. He appreciates how World Vision was there to help them during Katrina relief efforts and is here now during Hurricane Ike. He explains why he thinks it is important for the church to be involved this way: "When you open up the book that’s what it says to do. The underlying theme is it’s not about you, it’s about serving and helping others. Just like when Katrina hit, this is an opportunity for the church to have it’s finest hour and to come out and show the community that we’re not just a social club inside this building [but] that we’re the hands, and feet, and heart of Jesus Christ."

Jackie Bearden’s home suffered extensive damage in the storm. Mattresses, lamps, and even a giant stuffed dog sit out on the front curb. The storm ripped shingles off the roof. Inside, many areas of the ceiling had collapsed as the water came in through open areas in the roof. Sopping wet, pink insulation littered the floor in almost every room.

Yesterday a volunteer clean up crew from the church worked diligently ripping up carpets, pulling out unsalvageable items, and scrubbing rooms. Today another crew was also hard at work.

When Liz Bearden, Jackie’s aunt, saw the cleaning supplies World Vision had dropped off, she exclaimed, “Oh how awesome!” One of the volunteers answered her, “It’ll smell good.” Liz put on some vinyl gloves, also in the shipment from the assessment team, “I’ve been needing gloves,” she said as she worked them onto her fingers.

It soon became apparent why she needed the gloves. She worked to wipe up some of the insulation in a bedroom. She pulled out a soaked pair of pants, wrinkling her nose at the smell. Then out came a stack of school books—water damaged beyond usability.

The team headed off to another church, Gloria Dei. This is a church World Vision hopes to use as a distribution point in the Houston area, when World Vision’s Storehouse delivers more supplies as part of the recovery and rebuilding phases in helping victims of Hurricane Ike.

In the early afternoon, the team pulled up at Greater First Baptist Church in downtown Houston. As if by magic, people begin arriving to help unload the truck. At first each person carried a box into the fellowship hall. But then they formed a chain and passed the packages of supplies along in an efficient manner.

Eva Bosley checks out one of the mops, which was just delievered by World Vision to Greater First Baptist Church in Houston, Texas.One of the volunteers, Eva Bosley says the supplies will be a big help because “even the little money you do have is stretched so far [during disasters.]”

Greater First Baptist Church pastor, Rory Thompson, greets fellow pastor, Stanley T. Hillard. He shares that Pastor Hillard’s church lost most of its roof in the storm. Then he promises Pastor Hillard that they will be sharing the supplies with his parishioners as well—even if that means delivering the supplies themselves.

Pastor Thompson says, "These products will help tremendously because we’ve had individuals that have suffered total loss."

Pastor Hillard says, "It’s been a tough week, but we’re pulling together thanks to people like you, World Vision, who see the need and who literally come to rescue us. We really appreciate everything that World Vision is doing and what it’s done in the past and what it continues to do to minister to hurting people all over the country."

Ike Crossing sign in front of a water-damaged home.Looking ahead, the leader of World Vision’s on-the-ground disaster team, Phyllis Freeman says that she hopes to send another assessment team next week to try to get to the as-of-now difficult to reach areas of Texas City and Galveston to see the damage there first-hand. Then the assessment teams will make long-term plans for how to best support churches in their efforts to rebuild along the Texas coast.

As Hurricane Ike fades from the news, the work required to return to some semblance of normalcy does not diminish. People continue the slow clean up process. Then their thoughts turn to rebuilding. And World Vision will be there to stand beside them and support those efforts.

Posted by Laura Reinhardt and Tom Costanza on assignment in Texas. Tom is Video Creative Director for World Vision in the United States. Laura is Assignment Editor for World Vision in the United States .

Thursday, September 18, 2008

In the Wake of Ike

Day 3
September 17, 2008

Rev. Randy Vaughn, left foreground, of Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church and volunteers from the church unload supplies from delivered by World Vision.World Vision’s assessment team spent over five hours traveling from Huntsville, Texas to the coastal town of Port Arthur, Texas. Under normal circumstances, this trip would take just under three hours. After many dead ends, low hanging power lines, and road closures due to flooding, the team finally arrived at Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church where they dropped off cleaning supplies, clothing, books, toys, and personal hygiene products for the church to distribute to those in need in the community.

Rev. Vaughn says that the members of the community will definitely be helped by the supplies. Port Arthur’s mayor, Deloris Prince says, “I think God sent you all here. You’re all a bunch of angels. I thank you so much on behalf of all the citizens whose lives are going to be affected by what you’ve brought.”

Hurricane Ike wiped out many buildings in the coastal town of Sabine Pass.Hurricane Ike battered Texas coastal community of Port Arthur and neighboring towns. Adam Saunders, a native of the small town, Sabine Pass, Texas, says that Hurricane Ike caused more damage for them than Hurricane Rita in 2005.

“With this storm, it was a small storm—not nearly as powerful [as Hurricane Rita]—we were just east of the storm, which is the worst place to be,” says Adam. “That means you’re getting all the flow of the water, tidal surge.” He explains that most of the damage done to Sabine Pass was caused by the tidal surge. “You had waves beating on the house for 12 hours and basically beating it to nothing.”

And when Adam returned to his house for the first time, that is exactly what he found—nothing. The house was completely gone. “The biggest piece of my house that I found was a 20x30 piece of the roof. That’s it.”

Adam Saunders takes his daughter, Olivia, to visit what used to be their home.Today he took his 10-year-old daughter, Olivia, to the home for the first time. She points out where her bedroom used to stand. “It makes me feel different,” she says of what she is seeing.

The assessment crew then headed back to Port Arthur. Rev. Vaughn drove them through the neighborhoods. He explained that this community was still struggling to recover from the effects of Hurricane Rita now they’ve been hit with this new disaster. “You see this blue on this house here,” he says, indicating shreds of blue tarp on a roof top. “That’s not new. That’s Rita damage.”

Back at Mt. Sinai, the assessment team learned that almost all the items they dropped off earlier in the day had been distributed in a little less than two hours. “It’s all gone,” say a couple of the volunteers. One man adds, “News travels fast.”

But for the Johnson family, the news did not arrive quite as quickly. They pull up in the church parking lot asking if there are still any supplies. The family of six with four children—all under 9 years of age—is staying in their home, which currently has no power. Delicia Johnson says, “We have no funds to get a hotel or anything like that. We basically just finally got some funds to get some gas. So everything we know about is at the last minute. That’s the hardest part.”

The Johnson family gets cleaning supplies at Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist church.The family’s home sustained wind damage and there still is water on one side of the house and even underneath part of the house. The family received cleaning supplies, mops, and brooms. Delicia says she appreciates that she get her home cleaned and prevent the spread of germs.

Tomorrow the team will visit with more churches in the Houston area where they will distribute more products and also determine how they can continue to help churches in the area during the rebuilding process.

Posted by Laura Reinhardt and Tom Costanza on assignment in Texas. Tom is Video Creative Director for World Vision in the United States. Laura is Assignment Editor for World Vision in the United States .

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

In the Wake of Ike

Day 2
September 16, 2008

World Vision staff members and volunteers pack up more personal hygiene kits to ship to victims of Hurricane Ike.World Vision volunteers and staff members began the day working together to pack up more hygiene kits. Staff members created palettes of the supplies, then loaded up the twenty-four foot truck. At about 3:30 the truck rolled out of the World Vision Storehouse parking lot.

World Vision Church Relations Director in Dallas, Cassie Wyssbrod, says she spoke with Rev. Randy Vaughan from Mt. Sinai Baptist Church in Port Arthur, Texas—an area close to the Louisiana border. The assessment team plans to visit Rev. Vaughan’s church first thing on Wednesday where they will make a distribution.

World Vision staff member, Pedro Escobar, closes up the truck filled with supplies that are bound for the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Ike along the Texas coast.Cassie says, “When I told him that we could come with supplies and we’d like to meet him and we’d like him to be a part of our assessment [team], he was just thrilled.”

“[Rev. Vaughan] offered to go with us over to Houston because he’s also the director of the national disaster response for the denomination (National Baptist Convention). So we’re going to help the community where he ministers the church as well as the vulnerable communities over in Houston and Galveston,” she says.

Rev. Vaughan described the scene on the coast, “That whole area really got hit hard by the storm and that’s an area where you have a lot of people in need. The need is tremendous. The lines are long. The American Red Cross ran out of supplies today. The Salvation Army ran out of supplies. There’s no gas. And people just aren’t sure what to do.”

Tomorrow World Vision’s assessment team will get its first glimpse of the devastated areas and begin distributing the relief supplies that volunteers have been packaging since Hurricane Ike hit.

We’ll bring you the pictures and video on tomorrow’s blog.

Posted by Laura Reinhardt and Tom Costanza on assignment in Texas. Tom is Video Creative Director for World Vision in the United States. Laura is Assignment Editor for World Vision in the United States .

Monday, September 15, 2008

In the Wake of Ike

Day One
September 15, 2008

Hurricane Ike was as big as Texas. Phyllis Freeman, director of World Vision’s on-the-ground relief efforts, describes Hurricane Ike as "one of the most intimidating storms post-Katrina" that we have had. "The storm was so huge when you looked at it on a visual on the TV or the Internet. It filled up the entire gulf coast."

Members of a youth group volunteer creating hygiene kits for victims of Hurricane Ike.For people wanting to help the victims of Hurricane Ike, Phyllis says, "Volunteers are always really wonderful to have because we live and move by volunteers so we always need the extra hands."

Over the weekend and on Monday—working from eight in the morning to eight in the evening—volunteers were at World Vision’s Storehouse in Dallas packaging up kits that will be delivered to partners in areas hard-hit.
The kits include items such as shampoo, conditioner, lotion, body wash, and soap.

Volunteer Grady Venable shows a personal hygiene kit being created to send to victims of Hurricane Ike.Volunteer Grady Venable says, "I can help here ‘til I can go down there and help." He continues talking, never missing a beat packing up supplies.

"This is the least that anybody can do here just to make things ready to go down to the hurricane people so they can have things and supplies," he says. "Just giving of your time and your effort can really help people out down there."

Phyllis explains that the American Families Assistance Fund is a donation that allows World Vision to provide ongoing care for families in need—especially in time of disaster. "There’s many different types of assistance that would be a blessing to us to help us," she says.

World Vision employee, Pedro Escobar, wraps a pallete of provisions in preparation for transport to victims of Hurricane Ike.On Tuesday, a World Vision assessment group will load up a truck and head south to Austin, then hopefully head over toward the coast if the roads are passable. They will take with them personal hygiene kits.

"We are hoping to take 1000 units with us," says Phyllis. The team will also carry cleaning supplies, clothing, toys, and books. She describes the books and toys as "a comfort for children. Many of them, when they have to evacuate, they may be able to bring one toy sometimes no toys depending on how quickly you will have to leave your home. What we’ve found is that the children, if they can have something they’re familiar with, brand new toys bring joys. Books are wonderful. So it’s just for comfort of the children."

World Vision employee, Jeremy Wissink, readies supplies for transport to the Texas coast.World Vision has contacted five primary community partners throughout the state—mostly churches and community centers, which it hopes to set up as regional distribution sites for families as they return from where they are being sheltered. The assessment team hopes to be able to distribute supplies to these partners and perhaps establish some new partnerships as well.

The main goal of the assessment team, though, is to seek out people who might otherwise normally fall through the cracks at a time like this and help provide for their short and long-term needs as they begin the process of rebuilding their homes and their lives.

Posted by Laura Reinhardt and Tom Costanza on assignment in Texas. Tom is Video Creative Director for World Vision in the United States. Laura is Assignment Editor for World Vision in the United States .