Spring Break Relief Efforts
joinIng fellow UC students on Spring Break trip to Houston, TX to document and help in Their relief efforts towards the devastating damage on local homes following Hurricane Harvey.
Located in Midwest United States, the biggest natural threat many of these UC students face during school semesters is a tornado. The wreckage can be deadly, and the knowledge of lasting damage from such a storm is not lost on anyone who could potentially fall victim to them.
So when Category 4 Hurricane Harvey struck in late 2017, University of Cincinnati students wanted to help. They raised money and traveled to Houston, TX to partner with Eight Days of Hope, a Christian nonprofit recovery organization, and aid in alleviating some of the damage during their week-long Spring Break the following year. I traveled in one of 7 groups sent by a UC campus ministry - comprised of eight other students and a supervisor - to document and assist in their Hurricane response.
When we arrived in Houston, there was much work to be done. Providing lunches for the teams was the first task assigned to our group, and we started packing up boxes of food and supplies for the week ahead. Once the teams had their supplies and home placements, we set out for work.
We would soon find that much of the destruction in local homes came to the floors and lower wall insulation of exposed areas like garages and front rooms. Such water damage harbors the growth of mold and mildew - which could result in harmful health conditions like respiratory infections if left untreated - so the need for repair was evident.
The first home we visited belonged to a mother of two and her blind dog, Señor. They all had been through a lot in the past several months and were seeking a new normal in the midst of rebuilding their home. After working with the home owner to discuss her needs and talk about her experience, our team started clearing out the kitchen and living area. This provided an open workspace when removing the water-damaged flooring, in order for it to be later swapped out with a water-resistant replacement.
After spending the early part of the week in the first home, the flooring was removed and base level cleaned. That labor literally laid down the ground work for the next team to install new tile, and we reached a stopping point at house 1. Once given our new assignment, our team moved onto another home, where we would spend the remainder of the trip.
House 2 had two areas of concern; the insulation in the garage and a bathroom on the main floor. Given its larger surface area and more immediate need, our group started with removing items from the garage and disassembling shelves to gain better access to the lower portion of its inner walls. Once the space was cleared, the team worked to remove the damaged walls and insulation before installing new insulation and paneling.
Once the garage was fully repaired, the attention shifted to the bathroom. Several team members removed hardware and tile from the bathtub, to then be replaced with new furnishings.
On the last day, a grateful homeowner offered to prepare us a meal for our efforts. The team ended our time in Houston with an unexpected feast and new friend, who shared her story and the impact this tragedy has had on her family and community.
When asked what stood out to them the most about the experience, many students said they were devastated to witness the true longevity of a natural disaster. One team member noted that the repercussions span far beyond just physical damage, but whenever you provide love and support to those experiencing loss, they are more hopeful to rebuild a brighter future.