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Disaster Recovery - It's not Over

Updated on February 21, 2009

For a moment, close your eyes and imagine. Imagine that your home was hit by a natural disaster—a tornado, flood or hurricane. Imagine that you and your family had just enough warning to get out with your lives—and the clothes on your backs. 


Next, imagine that you spend a period of time in a shelter where the Red Cross or some other emergency relief agency feeds you, gives you a temporary place to sleep and gives you a few hand-me-down clothes donated by the kindpeople who responded to the appeals on television.


After a few days, the authorities declare that it’s safe for you to return home. When you arrive, you find the neighborhood may be safe, but your house isn’t. Either the hurricane blew your favorite shade tree over, crushing your roof and opening a huge gaping hole, letting rain in and ruining everything inside, or the tornado picked up your entire house and deposited it in pieces in a nearby field, or the flood waters left their dirty high-water mark about two feet above your television and everything from there down is caked with mud and slime.


Anxiously, you call your insurance company only to find that your policy will not cover all of your losses. You didn’t have “replacement” coverage or separate flood insurance, or you were not covered for “acts of God.”


You return to the shelter and find that most, if not all, of your neighbors are in the same situation. You wonder what in the world are you going to do now. Although you and your spouse both still have your jobs, it has always taken everything you both earn just to make ends meet. How are you now going to be able to replace everything you had worked for all these years and still put food on the table and clothes on your children’s backs?


At some point in time, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) furnishes you with a 30-foot travel trailer for your entire family to live in until you can rebuild your house. You get a grant of $2,500 toward replacing your heating and air-conditioning systems from one agency and $2,000 toward building materials from another. The community church organization shows up with volunteers to help you remove the debris and start the rebuilding process.


After a few months, you finally get your house “dried in.” You just bought the replacement sheetrock for the inside with the money from the overtime worked last month. If all goes well, you may be able to buy the interior doors this month—unless one of the kids gets sick or needs new shoes.


Gradually, you realize that hardly any volunteers are showing up in your neighborhood anymore. You finally have some materials to install, but now there’s no one to help you install them. You are exhausted from all of the overtime you have been working just to get another window or cabinet. The novelty of living in a travel trailer has worn off and your kids are at each other’s throats when you drag yourself in after it has gotten too dark to work at night—and there’s no way for you to send them to their rooms to cool off. You wonder if you’re ever going to get your life back to normal.


This is the position hundreds of victims find themselves in six months to a few years after the disaster has supposedly passed. Once the media no longer air updates on the current state of the recovery efforts, most people assume that everything is back to normal and volunteers no longer rush to help.


This is not correct!  Volunteers are desperately needed!


If at all possible, give a day, a weekend, a week or whatever time you can to help these people get their lives back in order. Please, contact the disaster recovery office of any of a number of church groups (Baptist, United Methodist, Lutheran, etc.) and ask where they can use help. No matter what your skill level or how fast or slowly you work, I promise you that anything you can do will be greatly appreciated.



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