Wasan Abu-Baker is Palestinian-born author whom has dedicated her life to telling her own cultural story through that of current events. Before becoming an established author, Abu-Baker earned her masters degree in special education and currently is a community leader and advocate for refugees, all the while partaking in a fellowship at the American Friends Service Committee of Pan Valley Institute.
Three months after the devastating hurricane hit the city of Houston, people from across the town and the world joined forces to aid those affected by the storm and its aftermath. For Wasan Abu-Baker, her experience in Houston proved that while storms are a direct source of pain, are also a source of heartwarming societal unification. For Abu-Baker, she witnessed the collaboration of the ICNA Relief with the Islamic Society of Greater Houston to set up temporary shelters and aid evacuees. She saw Islamic centers open their doors to everyone, Muslims and Non-Muslims alike. Aside from religious centers, she witnessed common folk opening their hearts and their homes to those who lost everything with the flood, directly citing the actions of a furniture store owner who opened his store after Harvey for newly homeless people. Abu-Baker herself made hygiene kits with her Sunday School children to take part in supporting the distant community. She even made note within her article to show her appreciation for the actions of corporate companies, like Walmart and restaurants like Jason Deli for offering free meals for areas impacted by the destructive storm. Abu-Baker emphasizes the physical and psychological impact on people during a major disaster and the essential need for such impacts to be addressed early on, crediting neighbors, nonprofit organization and government on all levels that came to Houston to not only save the city but save the people themselves. Abu-Baker concludes the piece by alluding the situation to that of hers whilst living in a Palestinian war zone. She ends the piece by calling that all citizens must be ready for disaster— ready to make safe decisions before they respond— and ready to go through a long-term recovery process to work to restore justice and dignity for survivors.
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Whether it be wildfires, floods, or hurricanes, the road to recovery is long, and there are many ways people can help the thousands whose lives have been devastated. It’s been three months since Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on the coast of Texas, leaving many evacuees displaced due to flooding. This disaster has been the source of a lot of pain, but it has also been the source of many heartwarming stories.
During the time we spent in Dallas when we evacuated Corpus Christi, the ICNA Relief Muslims Helping in Disasters president Javaid Siddiqui said that assistance will come to those in need. ICNA Relief collaborated with the Islamic Society of Greater Houston to set up temporary shelters and assisted hurricane evacuees. Teams of volunteers were sent to Houston and help was on the way. Here are some of the most inspiring stories that will tell you that communities come together to save lives and make a difference.
The Islamic centers in Houston opened their doors for all evacuees from the Hurricane. They provided shelter, medical care, food, and care. They opened their doors for Muslims and Non-Muslims alike.
The Islamic Center of Southern Texas in Corpus Christi, during the Muslim celebration of Eid Al Adha, the Imam during the prayer service encouraged all congregants to gather donations to send to victims in Houston.
A Furniture store owner, opened his store after Harvey for people during the flood. He posted photos of families taking shelter inside the store, utilizing the mattresses and couches in the store.
In the Islamic Center in Victoria, the Imam asked Muslims to donate all the meat from the Eid Al Adha celebration to the victims of the Hurricane in Port Aransas and other surrounding cities affected during the Hurricane.
I made hygiene kits with my Sunday School children. The children included a note or drawing in the bags to help the recipients feel that people care about them.
Churches, like the First Methodist Church in Corpus Christi, opened their doors for the people who wanted to donate or volunteers who wanted to help.
Stores like HEB, Walmart, and restaurants like Jason Deli offered free meals for the areas impacted. Trucks of food, bottled water, medicine, and blankets also came streaming in to help those in need.
There is a physical and psychological impact on people during a major disaster. There are the obvious physical injuries and sometimes death. Psychological effects such as stress and depression have a major effect on the safety of people and must be identified early.
Neighbors, nonprofit organizations, and government on all levels joined together to mount an extraordinary effort to save lives and meet the needs of thousands of people who suffered from the storm and subsequent flooding. Brock Long, the administrator of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), said more than 450,000 people were expected to seek disaster assistance due to flooding after Harvey. Brock said authorities were anticipating that 30,000 people would be placed in temporary shelters due to flooding. He expected that the recovery after this event is going to last many years.
Through my experience of living in a war zone in Palestine, we learned many survival skills that are needed when it comes to safety, rescuing your family, and coping with all the psychological effects of death and destruction. I think we must look at how we ask citizens to be ready for a disaster, whether its shootings or tornados, citizens should be ready to make safe decisions before they respond. People are the help before the help will arrives, and they need to be ready to save neighbors in harm’s way. Citizens need to be able to feed themselves for several days, cure themselves and others when they are in danger or ill.
According to the FEMA director, the initial response must come first from local and state agencies whether it’s a wildfire, a flood, or a tornado. Community leaders in the Corpus Christi area, like Father Bruce Wilson a chaplain at Metro Ministry and Violet Russell Edwards from Calvary First Baptist Church, are working together to gather data about the victims of Harvey and the damage caused by the storm. These leaders are known to the community, and everyone knows to go to them when they need help.
A successful recovery process includes addressing the psychological and emotional needs of the community. The process includes providing counseling, support, screening, and treatment of effected individuals when needed. We should expect people to be in shock, stressed, and in need of support and mental health treatment. Addressing mental health issues during a disaster is a challenge to law enforcement and other first responders. So, it is critical to consider providing relief for short term and long term mental health treatment coordinating with faith partners and voluntary, federal and state agencies for long-term recovery. Disaster coordinators are in contact with local churches and their communities.
Long-term recovery work in the region and contributions for Harvey survivors means providing community support for holistic recovery, repairing homes for families and children, and restoring dignity for the most vulnerable who have lost everything in the wake of this catastrophic event. There are many ways to help survivors of these types of disasters and they include: spiritual care, community organizing, reconstruction of homes, clean up, and volunteer coordination. In these situations, volunteers are often needed around the country for months and years at a time.