How Your Church Can Help With Disaster Relief In Another City
As a resident of Houston, which was truly ravaged by Hurricane Harvey a little over a week ago, I’ve been inundated with concern from friends from out of town, and questions on how best to help. After spending the last week helping with recovery, hearing about friends’ and family’s experiences with disaster relief organizations, making my own observations, and doing a little research, I’ve gained some new perspective on the most effective ways that you can help if you don’t live in the affected area.
Here are the 5 best ways for your church to get involved with disaster relief in another city.
This should be the obvious starting point, but sometimes it gets overlooked in the rush to more “practical” steps. Pray for the families of those who lost their lives and for the people who have lost their homes and everything they owned, that God would comfort and sustain them. Pray for the first responders, who have been overwhelmed by devastating sights day-in and day-out, to have peace and endurance. Pray for the volunteers, to have strength, compassion, and wisdom.
2. Partner with a local church and/or organization.
These churches or organizations have established relationships with the people in need of assistance, as well as local government agencies, and they can most quickly assess what kind of help is needed and how to disseminate resources or dispatch people. They can most easily let you know not only what is needed, but what is not needed, to help prevent what is known as the “second disaster.”
Here in Houston, clothing donations were no longer accepted anywhere only a couple of days into the recovery process. Additional donations of clothes would only get in the way of other, more necessary supplies, and slow down the assistance process.
3. Send specialized teams.
Once your partner church or organization has identified the labor needs for the recovery process, you can create teams of volunteers with the specific skills and/or resources that will be most useful.
For example, while flooding was still occurring in Houston, teams with flat-bottomed boats and large trucks from neighboring towns and states came to help rescue people trapped in their homes. Now that water has receded from most parts of the city, teams of people with the skills and equipment to enter homes that may be developing dangerous mold are needed. Volunteers without the equipment to safely enter these homes are becoming more and more limited in their ability to assist with removal of potentially hazardous sheetrock, flooring, and furniture.
4. Remain connected long after the event.
Recovery from Hurricane Harvey will take years, but attention and assistance will begin to dwindle as time passes, despite the need for continued help. Find ways to support those affected long past the actual disaster to ensure their successful recovery. Some people lost their homes, cars, and jobs in one weekend, but it will take much, much longer to rebuild their lives.
5. Support local businesses.
The economic impact of a natural disaster can be huge and prevent entire cities from recovering. By supporting local businesses, you’re giving people whose livelihoods depend on their employers’ success a chance to rebuild.
How can your church implement some of these ideas to impact the community?