Tag: Disaster Recovery

How to help and stay calm during the COVID-19 pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the world, fear and anxiety are on the rise. With so much unknown, it can feel like everything is out of control and there’s nothing we can do. However, here are some things you can do that can help both alleviate your fears and bring some hope to the rest of the world. 

LOOK FOR THE HELPERS

Mr. Rogers once said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” The COVID-19 pandemic is no different. Convoy of Hope has committed to provide at least 50 truckloads of emergency food and water — approximately 2 million pounds of relief supplies — to people most affected by the coronavirus. This work is being done through local partners helping offset school lunch needs caused by prolonged cancellations within their school districts. Do some research into organizations who are out there working to alleviate the effects of the pandemic.

VOLUNTEER

If you are sick, just not feeling well, or in the high-risk category for COVID-19, please stay home! However, if you are healthy and considered low-risk, there are likely many food banks and groups in your area that could greatly use your help providing supplies and assistance to those in your community. Contact your local chamber of commerce to learn if it is safe to help and how you can do so. 

SUPPORT LOCAL, SMALL BUSINESSES

This is a difficult time economically for everyone, but it’s especially difficult for small businesses. Do some research into local small shops that sell things like soap and cleaning supplies. Find local restaurants that may be offering delivery, drive-through, or curbside services. Stay social, even from a distance. Buy gift cards to stores you like — this gives them a boost now and you have a reason to treat yourself later when it’s once again safe to go out and shop. 

STAY INFORMED, NOT OVERWHELMED

There is A LOT of information and conversation out there about COVID-19. Unfortunately, not all of it is true or helpful. Make sure your information is coming from a trusted source. Convoy of Hope is providing a safe place for information at convoyofhope.org/coronavirus

Also make sure that you’re not overwhelming yourself with information. You could read updates on the pandemic for days if you wanted to, but that is not mentally or emotionally healthy. So stay informed, but make sure you are not spending all your time focusing on it. 

Remember to take a deep breath and hold tightly to hope in this time of heightened fears. You may have to stay home right now, but your kindness does not!

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Earth-Shaking Hope in Haiti

In early 2010, I was working for Convoy of Hope in Haiti. Things were normal. I was finishing up hosting guests from the U.S. and waiting for a Field Team to arrive two days later. But late that afternoon, as I stood on the balcony of a friend’s home, everything changed. 

My memories of the January 12 earthquake are ones that will always be with me. I’ll never forget the sound of moving earth and crashing buildings. Of mothers wailing in the street. Of the look on peoples’ faces as they tried to process what was happening. 

Although my assignment at Convoy of Hope was not for Disaster Services, I found myself at ground zero for one of the largest natural disasters to hit the Western Hemisphere. I pushed through my mental haze and began working with our partners in Haiti to assess the situation, determine food inventory, and identify a base of operations for in Port-au-Prince. 

Thankfully, within 48 hours of the shaking, I was welcomed by the sight of my Convoy of Hope colleagues crossing the tarmac of the airport. They brought a sense of calm that I hadn’t felt since the ordeal began. I was eager to step out of the way and place the reins of the response in their very capable hands. 

We all witnessed the sadness and desperation that took hold throughout the island in the days and weeks that followed. It got so bad that many families were forced to place the lifeless bodies of their loved in the street to be collected and placed in mass graves. 

But we also saw the amazing power of hope. A strength rose up in the Haitian people, who had already endured so much, and they picked themselves up and moved into their new “normal.” The overwhelming global response to the calamity showed them that they weren’t ignored or forgotten. They would make it.

When the earthquake struck, Convoy of Hope and our partners were already invested and committed to Haiti and were feeding more than 13,000 kids every school day. The overwhelming need after the earthquake propelled us forward and forced us to fast track our plans in the country. In 2019, we are feeding more than 90,000 children in Haiti. 

Tragedies don’t often give people the chance to do anything but survive. That’s why we hope to look beyond the immediacy of a disaster and toward a day when survivors can participate in the rebuilding of their communities. That’s what Haiti has been for us. We were honored to come alongside Haitians and serve when they needed us most. But we’re most proud of when they came back alongside us as participants … as partners on Haiti’s journey. 

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25 Stories That Shaped Convoy of Hope / Children's Feeding / Disaster Services / Field Story

Convoy of Hope’s trained volunteers are paving the way for a response to Dorian

After a close brush with Hurricane Irma, a group of passionate Floridians reached out to Convoy of Hope for help. Their community had been spared the brunt of the storm, but their drive to help survivors was galvanized. What they wanted from Convoy of Hope was not food or flood buckets. They wanted knowledge.

Within a short time, Convoy of Hope staff had trained 25 individuals in how to respond to local emergencies and disasters. Whether it was helping a neighbor when their house burned down or preparing for a major disaster like Hurricane Dorian, these individuals wanted to make sure that would be prepared should the worst happen.

At the training, Convoy of Hope staff instructed courses on disaster preparedness, assessing damage, relief distribution, and the cleanup processes. In addition to instruction about directly responding to disasters, attendees learned how to reach out to their local governments so they would be included in the master response plan for their area.

When it was announced that Florida would be directly in the path of Hurricane Dorian, members of this group of trained responders reached out to Convoy of Hope. On Saturday, a truck of supplies will be delivered to help resource first responders and to have immediate supplies for them to distribute to those affected by the storm.

Training a network of volunteers is a vital part of Convoy’s master plan of equipping local communities — not only with product and knowledge of our staff, but with the ability to care for their community when Convoy of Hope is not present.

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Disaster Services

A Nation in Mourning: Convoy of Hope’s 9/11 Response

When the first plane flew into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, time seemed to stop. We as a nation held our breath at the horror of what we were witnessing. 

What followed was days, weeks, and months of confusion and heartache as we in the United States figured out how to move forward. People from across the world stepped up to help, and Convoy of Hope was no exception. 

At the time, Convoy of Hope’s Disaster Services team was brand new. We’d responded to a few smaller hurricanes, but nothing with the impact we saw after the September 11 attacks. Regardless, Convoy of Hope’s first truckload of relief supplies left the World Distribution Center for the East Coast within 24 hours of the attack. 

When we arrived, we found a city in shock. 

“There were probably three weeks where you could hear a pin drop in New York City,” former Convoy of Hope employee Mike Ennis said. “I’ve never seen the city that way before or since.”

Our immediate response focused on assisting emergency workers at Ground Zero and the Pentagon. In New York, Convoy of Hope assisted a Staten Island respite center that supported more than 400 firefighters, rescue workers, and national guardsmen for four months. We also provided hot meals, supplies, shower facilities, and beds for those working long shifts at Ground Zero. It was a haven of peace, order, and love for the men and women facing indescribable scenes day after day. 

In the long term, we partnered with several key groups in New York to plan what we called “Encouragement Events” — both large and small gatherings that focused on rescue workers and families who lost loved ones. We also wanted to bring hope to the average New Yorker still struggling with what happened but wouldn’t be included on an official list of “victims.” The need for massive counseling and peer support systems was very clear. 

Thankfully, because of the connections we made during that chaotic time, we’ve been able to serve the New York area in many ways, which includes our response after Superstorm Sandy and through Hope Days

September 11 was a defining moment in Convoy’s 25 years that has shaped us into the organization we are today. That dark time taught us that — even in the worst of times — hope, compassion, and kindness can still make all the difference. 

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25 Stories That Shaped Convoy of Hope / Disaster Services

How Hurricane Katrina Changed Everything

When Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Louisiana coast and decimated everything in its path, everything changed. For our nation, seldom before had we seen such devastation — streets became rivers, homes were washed away, and more than 1,000 people lost their lives. The way groups responded to disasters changed everywhere, too, and that included Convoy of Hope.

As Katrina gained intensity in the Gulf of Mexico, it was clear the storm would be bad. But no one expected the wide-reaching damage Katrina would inflict. The morning after the hurricane made landfall, Convoy of Hope employees arrived at headquarters to find every phone ringing off their hooks. Convoy was a much smaller organization in 2005, with a staff of only 50 people. It was clear that this response was an “all-hands on deck” situation. 

Family and friends of staff members arrived to help, and phone banks were set up on folding tables in every available space. Volunteers answered phone calls all day, every day, for weeks. Calls came in from volunteers, donors, people needing help, churches asking for assistance, and even those in search of lost relatives.The answering machine crashed immediately, leading us to take messages on paper and run them around the building to the right person.

Staff from across departments were deployed to Mississippi and Louisiana to assist our two-person Disaster Services team. Before this time, we had never had more than one point of distribution (POD) running at a time. Now, we had several scattered throughout Louisiana and Mississippi.

This response changed Convoy of Hope in fundamental ways. Systematically, Convoy of Hope was recreated. Longtime Convoy staff member Randy Rich reflected on a time during the response when the team took a moment from the hustle and bustle. “We sat down and reinvented Convoy on a whiteboard,” he said. “The team updated processes for disaster response and developed additional roles that new staff or volunteers would fill.”

As our disaster response team grew, so did our ability to help others. Our response to Hurricane Katrina lasted for two years. Nearly 1,000 truckloads of relief supplies were delivered and distributed to families in need. For the next four years, we held Community Events across the Gulf Coast, specifically helping areas affected by Katrina. 

In our 25 years of existence, Convoy of Hope has responded to more than 400 disasters around the world. The people we met and the lessons we learned during Katrina redefined the way we would respond to disasters from then on. But the one thing that has never changed is the incredible importance of kindness and support from people like you. We couldn’t have served so many without the thousands of phone calls, mass amounts of volunteers, and incredible donors that saw those in need and offered their help.

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25 Stories That Shaped Convoy of Hope / Disaster Services / Program Updates / Volunteering