Hurricane Sandy from the air…
While the storm has come and gone, the long road to recovery for residents of New York and New Jersey has just begun. Property clean up efforts have been taunted by this week’s nor’easter, but thanks to the efforts of organizations like Samaritan’s Purse, it will take more than another storm to stand in their way to help victims start to dig out.
Today I had the honor to interview Tim Haas, Samaritan’s Purse Manager of US Disaster Relief, who is on the ground setting up efforts in the hard hit area of Nassau County, New York. I was curious to learn more about what sets Samaritan’s Purse apart from other relief organizations and how they work with victims every day. The organization expert in me wanted to give you tips about how you can plan ahead, how you can prepare for what happens next, once the natural disaster has hit. But in his very first answer, Tim reminded me that when disasters happen, they will always be unexpected. Based out of North Carolina, here is how Samaritan’s Purse takes action:
Me: Where can Samaritan’s Purse be found in the disaster area?
Tim: Because we are coming to a new community every time, the first step is to find a local church to collaborate with. They know their community, will know where the needs are greatest, and will have a support base of members to be part of the outreach. The host church provides us with information about families in need and housing for our volunteers.
Me: Where do volunteers stay?
Tim: Fellowship halls are turned into male and female volunteer dorms and the host church serves the role of taking care of our volunteers so they can take care of the community. If commercial kitchens and shower facilities aren’t available in the building, Samaritan’s Purse will send in mobile units to provide those needs.
Me: How does Samaritan’s Purse find victims in need?
Tim: When families in need are identified, its a simple signed agreement between the property owner and Samaritan’s Purse where they request and SP agrees to provide property clean up services at no expense.
Me: What is the key role that Samaritan’s Purse serves in the community?
Tim: Its all about helping victims of natural disasters with the very first step ~ clean up. Its the single most important task they tackle. Houses can be gutted out in 2 or 3 days, removing sand, debris, sheet rock, and flooring so that the homeowner can truly assess the damage and then proceed with their insurance company or other agencies who might be needed. The organization works diligently to place itself on the front lines, making sure to work in partnership with the relief organization community at large and do their part unique to the others. Each organization has its unique role and respect those efforts so that together, we can work collectively towards a swift recovery for the communities that we serve. Some may focus on basic necessities such as food and clothing and others on housing. Samaritan’s Purse has established itself uniquely by rolling up its sleeves to arrive ready to do the hard work of property clean up so victims can begin to see the road to recovery.
Me: How do volunteers provide faith based support to victims?
Tim: If you’ve never heard of Samaritan’s Purse, you might not know that it is a worldwide evangelical ministry. The organization believes its work to serve is in direct obedience to what the Bible calls them to do as a religious outreach. Because of this, each victim is presented with a Bible, surrounded in daily prayer, and given the support of a faith community made up of both Samaritan’s Purse volunteers and the local church with whom they have partnered. The hope is that by sharing the message of their faith, the community will come to lean on the local church that has become its rock and continue to be there for all long into the future. So its truly a partnership with a long term vision.
Me: How long will Samaritan’s Purse stay in the affected area?
Tim: As long as we find work in our scope which is doing things for homeowners that they can’t do themselves. Our volunteers mud-out homes that have been flooded, tear out damaged drywall and flooring, do mold remediation, tarp roofs, and remove dangerous or downed trees with chainsaws. And…as long as we have volunteers.
I was left thinking that for the victims of a natural disaster, there has to be comfort in knowing that the emotional and spiritual support they so desperately need will never go away. With the holidays and colder weather staring down the northeast as I type, it will be a challenge to continue to provide volunteers in the coming months. Its can be a hard time of year for folks to spend their personal resources and time to travel to disaster areas with harsh conditions. But consider this. People who aren’t in those areas will sit down to a Thanksgiving table full of wonderful food, warm in their homes, and surrounded by family, friends, and the hope of good things to come. The typical “I am Thankful” trees might be full of niceties like My family and friends. My new bike. My great report card. My new job. On Thanksgiving Day in the areas so hard hit by Sandy, the “I am Thankful” tree won’t be at the dining room table at Grandma’s house full of family. It will likely be in a dining hall full of strangers, not something visible but instead spoken and full of incredibly humble gratitude for the very things we so sadly take for granted. To be warm. To have a shower. To have a meal. To have my family. To be alive.
If Samaritan’s Purse calls your heart, click here to learn more about how you can give. Learn more about how you can volunteer or support those who do ~ you’ll be amazed at what they can accomplish together!
No matter what your faith…helping those in need is just the right thing to do. Tell me…
How are you supporting victims of Hurricane Sandy?
We’d love to know ~ thanks so much for stopping by!
Disclosure: I reached out to Samaritan’s Purse requesting to learn more about their relief efforts to share with you here. I do not have a professional affiliation with the organization ~ its just where I wanted to share resources for you to consider as you decide what you can do. My opinions are entirely my own.