Episcopal Relief & Development currently partners with dioceses in Texas, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and North Carolina to address long-term recovery needs after the devastating hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and Florence. Read more to learn about our unique partnerships that work in low-income, undocumented and migrant communities to restore homes and provide psycho-social support, all while implementing disaster resilience strategies that will help the most vulnerable withstand future disasters.
Three years after Hurricane Maria, Episcopal Relief & Development continues to partner with the Episcopal Diocese of Puerto Rico’s Programa REDES to support its supply distribution efforts, restore uninsured homes, provide emotional care for caregivers and ongoing help with volunteer management and resiliency building. As part of its resiliency building initiatives, the program has formed micro-savings groups in order to build financial resilience in isolated, under-resourced areas. The program’s systems have been especially useful, and scalable, during the series of earthquakes and aftershocks that occurred in late 2019 and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response to the recent series of earthquakes and aftershocks, Programa REDES set up five volunteer-led support centers that offer medical, mental wellness and pastoral services. The team consistently displays unity and high spirits in the midst of all the destruction around them. The Rev. Ana Mendez, the director of the program, tells her team constantly, ‘hashtag seguimos,’ which means we keep going. They’ve done an exceptional job of assessing needs and responding with supplies to address them.
Entire communities were submerged after Hurricane Harvey dropped 50 inches of rain on the Greater Houston area in 2017. It wasn’t just areas within the floodplain—you could, and still can, drive two hours from the center of Houston in any direction and see damages. Immigrants, migrant workers and undocumented people are still feeling the effects the disaster’s destruction. The storm left many laborers suddenly unemployed, families were displaced and those without insurance quickly learned that they could not afford to fix their home.
The Episcopal Diocese of Texas has collaborated with Episcopal Relief & Development and the Bishop Quin Foundation to expand existing ministries in order to maximize the outreach. This mighty trio has been able to fund home restoration projects in low-income immigrant communities, address the spike in domestic violence and mental health issues caused by Harvey and to feed families in need.
Two years after Harvey, Topical Storm Imelda caused flooding in the same hard-hit communities. Because of the strong existing community ties, the diocese was able to shift their focus to Imelda response, offering help to lower income individuals and those with disabilities. The diocese was able to deliver mattresses and bedding to those in need, offer comfort and listen to people’s stories.
Farmworkers face unique challenges during and after disasters, including lack of transportation to evacuate, loss of work and visas if crops are damaged and possible exposure to hazardous and toxic substances. In addition, many of them are put in jeopardy because of literacy issues and not understanding emergency warning messages. Fortunately, Episcopal Farmworkers Ministry, in partnership with Episcopal Relief & Development, is leading the way to improve disaster preparedness and response capacity of this group. Their efforts help ensure that the workers realize a full and sustained recovery after disasters. The Episcopal Farmworker Ministry has been diligently working in advocacy and supportive roles with migrant and seasonal farmworkers on the North Carolina coast for many years. Episcopal Relief & Development has partnered with them in emergency response during Hurricane Dorian as well as Hurricane Matthew in 2016 to provide water and food to stranded individuals and families in need after many lost work due to crop destruction.
In the past, the ministry regularly convened disaster preparedness workshops for agricultural workers. Now, they still raise awareness, with a twist. The ministry has been offering food to families in need during COVID-19, and as people wait in a line of cars to receive food, staff use a reacher pickup tool to share Spanish-language resources through an opening in car windows.
On the islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands, Episcopal Relief & Development and the Episcopal Diocese of the Virgin Islands initially provided cash and cash vouchers for food, water and critical supplies for several hundred people in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. On Tortola and Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands, Episcopal Relief & Development targeted support for drinking water, tarps, plywood and nails. Three years after Hurricane Maria, the diocese continues its partnership with Episcopal Relief & Development, and has mobilized case managers for both the US and British sides of the Virgin Islands to serve elderly people and low-income families, establish a Disaster Resilience & Management committee and to increase resiliency by creating preparedness plans and practicing them.