For the many communities across the U.S. and Canada affected by disasters, outside help can bring needed resources to the recovery process and be a vital source of hope. Help that comes at the wrong time or in the wrong form, though, can actually be distracting, disempowering, and even damaging.
When volunteers show up before communities are prepared to receive them, their needs add to the burdens already faced by the local community and distract from the pressing needs of survivors. Our volunteer efforts can become disempowering to survivors when we prioritize our opinions and expectations over the decisions of the local communities. Our confidence that “we know best” can hinder communities in owning their own recoveries and directing the future of the places where they live. At worst, volunteer efforts–when not properly planned, supervised, and executed–can do damage, to property and to people.
The good news is that Disciples already value local decision making, have a history of cooperation and collaboration, and have disaster response ministries (Week of Compassion and Disciples Volunteering) to connect our help to the places where it will truly be helpful.
Several communities are in the process of recovery and at the point where they are ready to receive volunteer teams and put them to work!
- Pamlico County, North Carolina — Hurricane Florence recovery
- Jefferson City, MO — Tornado recovery
- El Reno, OK — Flood and tornado recovery
- Puerto Rico — Hurricanes Irma and Maria recovery, possible earthquake response
- Jefferson County, TX — Hurricane Harvey recovery
- Taylorville, IL — Tornado recovery
- Redding, CA — Wildfire recovery