Relief for Irma victims comes from a variety of places

Relief for Irma victims comes from a variety of places

By Emmanuella Ellis

Over the weekend, Irma battered the low-lying Florida Keys, then made landfall along the state’s southwest coast. The deadly storm will continue up the northwestern coast of Florida, then head toward Georgia, where a state of emergency has already been declared. Irma also slammed the tiny island of Barbuda and moved on to St. Martin, Anguilla and parts of the British Virgin Islands where winds reached 185 mph. As Christian non-profit organisations continue their relief efforts in Texas, another storm is demanding their attention as Hurricane Irma continues to churn, possibly heading towards the U.S. These organizations have provided the vast majority of the relief aid to victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Billy Graham Response Team/Samaritans Purse

With significant ministry resources already committed in Texas, a Billy Graham Rapid Response Team Mobile Ministry Center based out of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s Canadian office is en route to North Carolina. The team is deployed alongside Samaritan’s Purse, which has already started sending emergency supplies to the Caribbean. Crisis-trained chaplains with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team have been deploy to the Southeastern U.S. in the wake of destruction left by Hurricane Irma, which has been regarded as one of the largest recorded storms in history. More than 100 chaplains living outside of the projected hurricane path were on standby to deploy once the storm has passed including chaplains on the East Coast who volunteered for Harvey. In addition to chaplains from the U.S., the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team is also expecting help from its Canadian office, which has committed to sending chaplains and equipment across the border and into the southeast if needed. Samaritan's Purse was the first relief agency to arrive on the island of St. Martin, not only bringing supplies but evacuating stranded American tourists who had no way of getting home.

“The destruction is catastrophic, and we want to be there for people in a time of great need and distress,” says David Bock, disaster response manager with Samaritan’s Purse Canada. “We have four well-trained disaster assistance response team members from Vancouver, Hamilton, Calgary and Blairmore (Alberta) bound for the U.S. today, so they can board the Samaritan’s Purse DC-8 in North Carolina.” Samaritan’s Purse in the U.S. has deployed all of its Disaster Relief Unit tractor trailers to help with Hurricane Harvey relief in Texas, and there are Samaritan’s Purse Canada volunteers heading to the U.S. to assist with that response. Disaster Relief Units are tractor trailers outfitted with disaster recovery equipment including generators, pumps, hand tools, and safety gear for volunteers. They also serve as volunteer coordination and training centers, and are equipped with a self-contained office, communications system, and other supplies. While the New Brunswick-based unit has already departed for the U.S., the Alberta unit, is preparing to leave for Florida.

The group also has a 53-foot trailer with tools and equipment to clear debris and shore up homes damaged in the storm. The aid group airlifted heavy-duty shelter plastic, family hygiene kits, and blankets to over 2,000 families and sent an additional shipment of emergency supplies to a further 2,000 families. An additional shipment of emergency supplies for more families—as well as a second DART—arrived Sept. 11 on St. Martin aboard the DC-8. The latest shipment included water purification units in addition to other supplies. We have more than 20 staff members on the ground working in St. Martin. Additional emergency flights will be arriving on other hard-hit Caribbean islands in the days ahead. Samaritan’s Purse has two teams in Florida to help homeowners recover from Hurricane Irma in hard-hit areas around Naples and Fort Myers. They are also partnering with host churches, and our volunteers will come alongside distressed homeowners in the Name of Jesus Christ.

The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team and the Samaritan’s purse are both ready to address the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of those who have been affected.

Food for the Poor

Food For The Poor is rushing aid to seven vulnerable areas in northern Haiti to help them recover from Category 5 Hurricane Irma. Aid was trucked from the charity's Port-au-Prince, Haiti, warehouse starting on Thursday, and more containers are being shipped from Food For The Poor in Florida as well as from Canada next week after the storm passes. In order to relieve the affected populations as quickly as possible and especially to help the temporary shelters set up to deal with this hurricane, Food For The Poor delivered water, rice, sorghum, peas, small millet, Vienna sausages and other canned foods, clothes, shoes and medical supplies. The institution has also placed in its centers work gloves, safety vests and other safety equipment, sanitary products, hygiene kits, sheets, rain boots and construction materials for distribution where necessary.

The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army, an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church, announced that all 47 of its units from Pensacola to south Florida were on standby and ready to assist residents in need. Along with the 32 canteens (mobile kitchens), the Salvation Army also has a fleet of equipment which includes two bunkhouses, two shower trailers, one generator and a Ford utility truck, which will be deployed as needed to the Hurricane Irma impacted areas," the organization said in a statement. The Salvation Army, which has more than 3,000 trained volunteers and staff in Florida, added it was working to establish five strategic staging areas which included Miami, Fort Myers, Palm Beach County, Vero Beach and Fort Lauderdale. The food trucks are mobilized to feed thousands of victims and first responders.  The disaster relief team is also setting up shelters for survivors to rest and recover, with volunteers’ ready to lend a hand to help, a shoulder to cry on, to give a hug or words of hope and to pray with everyone.

Matthew 25 Ministries

Matthew 25 Ministries has received so many donations to help its hurricane relief efforts that the humanitarian organization's Cincinnati arm found itself dealing with an unexpected "problem" Thursday night: It didn't have enough space to store all the goods that had been donated. Matthew 25 Ministries will do what it can to continue sending donations to the people who best know how to utilize them for the good of Harvey and Irma's victims. Matthew 25 Ministries and other humanitarian organizations across the country are spending upcoming weeks attempting to help the victims of two major hurricanes: Harvey, which devastated parts of Texas, and Irma, which is one of the worst floods in U.S. history. The Matthew 25: Ministries fleet includes a mobile laundry unit, an ice machine that can produce up to 10,000 pounds of ice a day and tractor trailers loaded with personal care kits, household and cleaning products, first aid and safety kids, diapers, tarps and more.

Christian Aid Ministries

CAM’s Search and Rescue teams are traveling south so they can respond immediately after Hurricane Irma makes landfall. Rapid Response Teams have also been notified and are ready to deploy at a moment’s notice. The Search and Rescue personnel have been dispatched to Jacksonville, Florida, where some of the heaviest rains have fallen since Hurricane Irma hit Florida. The St. Johns River, which runs through the city, is overflowing its banks, leaving people stranded as the floods rise over 5 feet. Several of CAM’s Rapid Response teams are out assessing the damages near Miami and Naples where the eye of the storm made landfall on Sunday. There will likely be lots of work to help with cleanup, putting tarps on roofs, and clearing fallen trees and debris.

Operations Blessing International

As Operation Blessing’s U.S. Disaster Relief Team works throughout Texas coordinating thousands of volunteers, emergency relief, and supplies in response to Hurricane Harvey, an Advance Team has also been moved into Florida to pre-stage at the Hurricane Headquarters just outside of harm’s way. Dozens of semi-truck loads of emergency food, water, hygiene kits for those most in need as well as chainsaws, generators, wheelbarrows and other tools for clearing debris and other relief items are ready to be distributed from Operation Blessing’s warehouse in Ocala, Florida. The U.S. Disaster Relief Team is already connecting with pastors and church partners in the projected path, and communicating with emergency officials. As always, Operation Blessing is set to be on the ground and ready to respond once the storm passes and it is safe to move in. Even as the storm rolled in, Operation Blessing delivered water and snacks to people sheltered in a public school. OB also has 350,000 bottles of water and 19,000 Meals Ready to Eat, plus overlooked necessities like disposable diapers, tissue, paper towels and feminine hygiene items.

Convoy of Hope

Convoy officials acknowledge the simultaneous disasters will stretch thin the Springfield-based non-profit. Still, they want to go where they are needed, said Jeff Nene, Convoy spokesperson. Teams continue to help Hurricane Harvey victims in the Houston area. And now as Irma bears down, Convoy of Hope will be helping at hurricane-affected areas in Florida, Haiti and the British Virgin Islands, as well as a separate flooding disaster in Nepal. Convoy of Hope has pre-positioned supplies in Haiti ready to serve tens of thousands of children. A team is en route to Springfield, Mo., to pick up supplies before heading to the British Virgin Islands. Once there, the plan is to set up a base of operations to meet needs there and eventually the surrounding islands. We have 1 million meals staged in Haiti and more en route, We are also working with local partners in Cuba to identify their greatest needs." However, we do currently have trucks staged and ready to respond in the Florida Panhandle. We also have additional staff ready to respond. We are working with local partners and FEMA so we can best identify the areas of greatest need after the storm hits” says Chris Dudley, international response director for Disaster Services.

Convoy of Hope also has three loads of mixed product scheduled to go to Haiti to support the response. They are also waiting for permission to send a container of food, water and supplies to Cuba. Convoy will work with partner agencies in Cuba for distribution. Convoy of Hope has a large warehouse in Haiti and is working to get food, water and supplies to the northern coast of that island. As of Saturday night, Convoy of Hope had three tractor-trailers loaded with supplies parked in the Florida Panhandle, a safe distance from where the worst of the storm is expected to hit. Chicago-based company LuminAID, which sells a portable, waterproof light that packs flat and can be recharged with solar power. To get the lights to the people who need them, LuminAID partnered with Missouri based non-profit Convoy of Hope, which responds to disasters in the U.S. and abroad. There are 2,500 of these lights headed to victims of Hurricane Irma, and after Hurricane Harvey, the company shipped 1,500 lights to Texas, enough to illuminate about 4.5 football fields.

"No matter what's going on in Texas, we're not going to desert Texas," explained Nene. "But at the same time, we're going to reallocate some people, some equipment, and some supplies to wherever Irma might hit."

Hand of Hope, Joyce Meyer Ministries has reached out to Convoy of Hope and Trinity Church to help provide relief as soon as the storm passes.

World Vision

World Vision is preparing to respond in Florida. The international charity World Vision had been helping people in Haiti and Dominican Republic prepare for the storms on Thursday night. Staff are also poised to help 122,000 people in Haiti with food, shelter, health and sanitation supplies. Relief efforts will focus on keeping tens of thousands of vulnerable children safe. Trucks filled with relief supplies are being mobilized from our North Texas warehouse and will be shipped to Georgia until the extent of the damage is known as well as where to specifically send supplies. Supply trucks are filled with food, water, hygiene supplies, and other items. Several trucks have been deployed, and each truck’s supplies that can help about 2,500 people. Preparation for this storm is however not intended to detract World Vision from continuing its response to Hurricane Harvey.

World Vision staff in Haiti and the Dominican Republic are already responding to damage in their countries. Food packets, water, and some essential supplies have been distributed to those affected. In Haiti, World Vision had relief supplies pre-positioned to assist in responding if the storm hit hard. Supplies included; Dry food, 13,500 bed sheets, 35,230 20-liter jerry cans, 9,963 flashlights, 7,075 hygiene kits, 2,666 blankets, 8,796 buckets and Sawyer water filters, 4,174 tarpaulins, 705 tents, 1,731 kitchen sets, 800,000 Aquatabs and 19,674 mosquito nets

Its crisis committee are prepared to respond, as there were four World Vision communities with about 9,700 sponsored children on alert. The committee was prepared to support the authorities, especially in tasks that prioritize the protection of children because Hurricanes of this magnitude can be especially frightening and traumatic for children whose physical and psycho-social needs are to be protected. World Vision is propositioning basic food and hygiene items to meet the needs of affected families and to ensure that affected children are secure and supported through child-friendly spaces.

The Medical Teams International is working with partners on the ground to provide vital health and hygiene supplies and direct care to affected families as they face the aftermath of Hurricane Irma's destruction. Other faith-based organizations at work on recovery include Seventh Day Adventists, which provides warehousing of disaster supplies; United Methodist Committee on Relief, which specializes in case management; and Convoy of Hope, which is known for providing food during disaster recovery, USA Today noted. "About 80% of all recovery happens because of non-profits, and the majority of them are faith-based," said Greg Forrester, CEO of the national VOAD.

The Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief has a Feeding Unit on stand by to deploy to hurricane Irma affected areas, a mobile kitchen and shower unit is also on standby by Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief. The Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief is prepared and ready to send teams to Florida to feed first responders such as Oklahoma Highway Patrol and fire departments that will begin relief efforts for those affected by Hurricane Irma. There is also coordination of a Diocesan-wide outreach initiative to assist the International Orthodox Christian Charities in responding to the catastrophic devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. A mission project has been proposed in order to help the IOCC replenish their supplies of Emergency Clean-Up Buckets. Representatives from the IOCC have noted that these kits are what they are most in need of.  Diocesan parishes are asked to put together Clean-Up Buckets that will then be donated to the IOCC. Other Minnesotans from faith-based groups and charities to businesses and ordinary citizens have been gearing up to gather supplies for agencies offering relief to hurricane victims.

Faith-based relief groups are responsible for providing nearly 80 percent of the aid delivered thus far to communities with homes devastated by the recent hurricanes, according to USA Today. An alliance of non-profit organizations called National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD), 75 percent of which are faith based, has helped FEMA distribute relief assistance to communities hit by disasters and assisted families in navigating government aid programs to begin the process of rebuilding.

For those who want to help relief efforts, several charitable organizations are already soliciting donations.

Support journalism from a Christian worldview. Donate Today
The simple truth that can end abortion

The simple truth that can end abortion

Tragedy strikes Florida nursing home in Irma aftermath

Tragedy strikes Florida nursing home in Irma aftermath