The intent of this page is to help students think through some aspects as they offer aid to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
Work rehabilitating flooded and/or damaged structures can be a very dangerous endeavor. Please take extra precaution with all contaminated items (basically anything that the flood waters touched, anything that was wet and now could be growing mold, etc.).
The Work: Clearing out flooded homes is not easy or pleasant work. Not every work site will be the same, but you should approach all work with caution. You should expect to find mold, contamination, rotting food, and mud covering the floor and walls. Structures may be damaged or structurally unstable. Trash and debris will be all over and large piles will on the side of the roads. Many individuals/families have lost everything. Be considerate of what they have/are going through.
- Pray continuously. Do a prayer walk around the neighborhood.
- Keep safety as priority - ALWAYS. Don't step backwards without looking first. Don't throw anything without looking. Don't drink from questionable sources.
- Wear protective/safety gear (gloves, long sleeves, pants, water-proof shoes, masks/respirators, etc.)
- Remember to stay hydrated and nourished - don't skip a meal. Hunger and dehydration can lead to careless mistakes and injuries.
- Please be tactful and considerate when talking to people and carrying "trash" to the curb. Everything you pick up belongs to someone and it may represent dear memories for them. Be sensitive to that. Go at the pace of the homeowner. Help them find a significant item.
- Be sure to get permission before entering a building: it may be unsafe and it is someone's property. Regardless of the condition of the building, it is still someone's home.
- Don't overexert yourself - rest when you need to. Remember that water-logged items will be heavier.
- You will not do everything in the weekend that you are helping. Recovery / Rebuilding will take years.
- Potentially the best thing that you can do is to just sit and talk/pray with the homeowner.
- Be respectful to each other, to the homeowners, and to everyone you come into contact with. Get to know the others you are working with. Ask the homeowner if they need anything or if there is anything they would like done first/next.
- Remember that you are representing the organization that you are working with / who's t-shirt you are wearing. Please do not offer money as that may reflect on the organization.
You can expect to find:
- Safety concerns such as: nails, glass, unstable structures, tripping hazards, etc. If you are doubting the safety of a structure, check with whoever is in charge before entering.
- Water and mud soaked items
- Sewer water contamination
- It is going to smell
- Emotions. Homeowners may be angry or sad or still in shell shock.
- You may be surprised by what you see and hear stirs inside of you as well.
- You are going to get very dirty if you are assisting in cleanup, and you will smell like whatever you have come in contact with.
- Access to showers may be limited
- Spoiled food (never open a closed fridge - duct tape it shut before attempting to move it)
- Mold, including on household items, furniture, and in the frames of buildings.
- Piles of belongings covering the streets as whole neighborhoods empty their houses of memories to be thrown away
- People will be very generous - it is not uncommon for people to drive around handing out water and food, this is plenty safe to take.
- Homeowners may want to keep items that seem unreasonable to keep - they are likely still processing so never go throw out something that they want to keep.
- People may be very grateful that you are there spending time helping them, or resentful that the college kids are choosing them as a "service project"
- You may find dead animals - dead critters or departed pets are common to find after a disaster
- Flexible and servant-like heart and attitude
- Sleeping bag
- Toiletries (Soap, Shampoo/Conditioner, Deodorant, Toothbrush, Toothpaste, etc.)
- Bug spray
- Personal Water Bottle
- Work jeans (will likely become disgusting)
- Work shirts
- Casual clothes for evenings
- Back up clothes in case of rips
- Modest sleeping clothes
- Flip flops for shower and evenings after working
- Rain Gear
- Work shoes (water-proof/resistant work boots are best)
- Work gloves (several pairs - and probably plan on discarding afterwards)
- Eye protection (safety glasses)
- Other Personal Protection Equipment that you own
- Pantyhose/knee highs to remove fiberglass from skin - the 25 cent ones from the store are perfect, just rub on dry skin to remove fiberglass
- Board/card games for evenings