This year’s devastating hurricane season on the southern coast of the U.S. has left ARC teams wondering how we might respond. While our focus is normally outside the United States, we did lead a response in the Hurricane Katrina crisis. Our connection to disenfranchised people reaches our own shores as well, and, in this case, we believe that we may have an opportunity to serve them.
Earlier in September, an ARC team visited hurricane-affected communities in the Houston, Texas area. The team surveyed the devastation and destruction firsthand and spoke with organizations working with extremely marginalized groups. One organization, FIEL (www.fielhouston.org), stood out for its critical work with immigrants – particularly those who are undocumented – helping them feel comfortable and secure to access the resources and support they need to heal, recover and rebuild. Relief and rebuilding is well underway for many in Houston, but help has been slower to arrive for immigrant communities.
ARC has launched a response in Houston and will be partnering with FIEL to reach out to those 180,000 vulnerable immigrants who were impacted by Hurricane Harvey – people who are dealing with conflict (particularly with their landlords), confusion, and disease.
We will do this in three main ways:
First, we will support FIEL. This is an amazing organization led by brave and determined inviduals – the best thing we can do is to get behind their efforts and help them make an even greater impact. ARC will provide FIEL with volunteers who can take over administrative and logistical support tasks, so that FIEL’s frontline staff can focus on reaching out to a community that knows, trusts and respects them.
Secondly, we will setup a temporary health clinic in a community elementary school. The health issues facing families range from respiratory infections due to mold caused by the flooding, to rashes and diarrhea from contaminated water. Immunizations such as tetanus are also needed, as are mental health services.
Thirdly, we will help FIEL with volunteer management and mobilization. FIEL could use many more volunteers to help them engage in outreach to their community, and ARC feels we can help organize those volunteers and build FIEL’s capacity to serve vulnerable immigrant families.
**How You Can Help**
If you’re interested in volunteering – either providing logistical & outreach support or as a member of our health team – please contact Molly Henry at MollyH@ARCrelief.org. We are looking primarily for bi-lingual volunteers(English and Spanish) already based in Texas.
If you’d like to support our efforts, make a gift online here: www.ARCrelief.org/give .
*Please stay tuned for updates on our response in Houston.