Humanity First USA Responds to Hurricane Sandy
Hurricane Sandy has claimed over 100 lives so far and affected the lives of tens of millions of residents on the East Coast. The shores of New York and New Jersey were hit by the hurricane on Monday night causing floods, fires and leaving millions of residents without power and basic necessities of life for weeks and months to come. Humanity First USA has mobilized its disaster response teams to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
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Disaster Response Updates:
Humanity First, USA launched its Hurricane Sandy relief effort in areas of New York (Lower Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island) and New Jersey. Lower Manhattan was the area hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy. Stores are closed, sidewalks are empty and many residents have been without electricity, cell phone service, and running water since Sunday. The temperatures have dropped, reaching a low of 38 degrees at night – with no heat, many residents have been suffering in the cold. Although the weather is harsh, Humanity First volunteers have been working in high spirits with local authorities to assess the needs and provide as much aid as possible to the communities in need.
November 19, 2012
On Sunday, November 18th, Humanity First had nearly 300 volunteers join their cleanup efforts. Requests for help continue to pour in via email and phone, and the Humanity First team is responding as needed to each request.
For the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend, Humanity First is partnering with Red Cross to provide meals.
November 17, 2012
Humanity First volunteers served food to 1000 individuals in Long Beach today as a part of the Humanity First hot meals program. Volunteers also cleaned up five public parks and 11 homes today, and plan to continue additional cleanup and gutting work tomorrow.
November 16, 2012
Humanity First provided food to 500 individuals in Long Beach today as a part of the Humanity First hot meals program. Humanity First volunteers also worked in the Long Beach Arena distribution center, and assisted elderly residents with loading donations into their cars.
Homeland Security of Indiana (District 1 Task Force) has been supervising relief efforts in major parts of the Long Beach area, spanning over 100 blocks. As part of a joint operation with them, Humanity First has been tasked with the overall management of several of their core recovery initiatives this coming week. Approximately 1000 volunteers per day have been recruited through the efforts of both Homeland Security and Humanity First for Saturday and Sunday.
Major relief efforts that Humanity First is participating in include neighborhood and park clean-up, Long Beach Arena distribution center clean up, delivering food and supplies to the homes of elderly victims, serving hot meals to thousands.
November 15, 2012
President Obama visited Staten Island today to witness the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy firsthand. One of the Humanity First volunteers from Canada had the opportunity to meet with the President, and share details about Humanity First’s Hurricane Sandy relief efforts with him. President Obama later acknowledged the Humanity First volunteer in his remarks, which can be viewed here.
Humanity First continued the hot meals program today, providing warm food to 500 individuals in the Long Beach area, and 450 individuals at Nassau Community College.
November 14, 2012
Humanity First fed 500 people in Long Beach through its hot meals’ service program.
It has been close to two weeks since Humanity First launched its Hurricane Sandy relief efforts in NY. Interest in the organization has grown and more people are interested in joining Humanity First’s team of volunteers.
November 13, 2012
In Staten Island, Humanity First volunteers continue to help residents with post-Sandy cleanupand canvass for more cleanup jobs in Long Beach area. Plans are being discussed for the weekend that include cleanup of a few local parks and sorting out donations at the local distribution center.
November 12, 2012
Today, a team of Humanity First volunteers arrived from Canada to assist with the relief efforts. Volunteers continue to stream in from across the nation as well, helping in whatever manner that they can.
The Humanity First disaster relief leadership visited Long Beach today, and met with the Homeland Security Disaster Response office to explore opportunities to help. As a result of this meeting, Humanity First will initiate a permanent hot meals program in Long Beach, daily from 12pm - 4pm. Additionally, on Thursday night, Humanity First volunteers plan to serve over 1000 hot meals at Nassau Community College.
A fundraising dinner will be hosted by Humanity First in Houston, Texas for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Details will be available soon.
November 11, 2012
On the second day of the clean-up, approximately 70 Humanity First volunteers were ready bright and early to serve the residents in need. The team consisted of returning volunteers from Saturday, as well as several new volunteers, including a woman whose house Humanity First had cleaned the day before. One particular volunteer is a visitor from Gambia, vacationing in Seattle, who came to assist for the week when he heard about the urgent help that is needed. Some local residents also showed up to help because they are impressed with the work HF has been doing in the area.
Volunteers were split into several groups, and started work. One group focused on sorting and distributing donations to local residents; the rest of the volunteers worked in teams of approximately 6 volunteers per house. These volunteers began cleanup work similar to what had been done on Saturday, which included removing everything from the lower floors of the houses, such as carpet, and taking down drywall.
Humanity First cleared out the basement of one elderly resident, and he was asked if he was satisfied with the work being done. He responded, "I'm just trying to figure out what kind of people you are that you would do something like this for me." Overall, in the two days, Humanity First cleaned around 35 houses in Staten Island, and 3 houses in Brooklyn. In Brooklyn, there were many homes in the basements of larger buildings, and everything was destroyed. In one home, every single item needed to be removed and placed on the curb before any cleanup could begin. The approximate cost of a contractor per house for clean-up is $2,000 - $6,000 and many homeowners do not have insurance, so the cleanup work provided by Humanity First is a great help for residents trying to rebuild their lives and homes after the devastation caused by Sandy.
Humanity First was also able to assist residents in other ways; some locals in Staten Island did not need any manpower, but were short on tools, so Humanity First distributed cleaning supplies and gloves. An elderly victim of Hurricane Sandy was unable to leave his home and get food, and Humanity First purchased groceries and supplies for him that will last for at least the next 10 days.
In New Jersey, State Senator Diane Allen had arranged for 30 tons of food to be distributed to the victims in the affected areas of Manahawkin, New Jersey. Around 30 Humanity First volunteers arrived at a warehouse in Delran, New Jersey with 12 vehicles to pack and transport food. Humanity First joined volunteers from other civic organizations and also assisted them in loading their vehicles, including the local fire and police departments, and other individual volunteers. Once items were packed and loaded, volunteers transported the supplies to various distribution centers near Manahawkin.The supplies were categorized by type (clothing, appliances, toys, shoes, perishable and non-perishable foods) and stored separately from where affected families collected them based on their need.
The plan for the upcoming week is to return to the same areas, taking care of any cleanup follow up projects and making sure all pre-scheduled cleanups are completed. In the next few days, Humanity First anticipates that all houses assigned to the team by local authorities in the South Beach area of Staten Island will be completed. This, however, does not mean the work is completed - Humanity First continues to assess needs of Hurricane Sandy victims and provide their services in any which way they can to restore the lives of residents in the devastated communities.
November 10, 2012
On Saturday, over 50 Humanity First volunteers met in Staten Island at 9 am and worked tirelessly throughout the day on a massive clean-up project. The team included local volunteers, as well as individuals who had traveled in town from across the United States to help with this noble cause. Humanity First helped the families of Staten Island clear out everything from their homes, with the primary focus being to empty their basements and lower floors. The team plans to return the next day to complete the work.
November 9, 2012
Humanity First will begin work in Staten Island early Saturday morning, with a volunteer registration table set up to facilitate the process. A separate team of volunteers will be working in Coney Island to assist residents with the clean-up of their houses.
A New Jersey senator has requested Humanity First’s help with food distribution in the disaster stricken areas, and this work will begin on Sunday, November 11.
November 8, 2012
The Humanity First command center in Queens has been preparing logistics for the large number of volunteers expected to arrive on the weekend, in addition to the current volunteers out on the field. Over 100 volunteers are anticipated to participate in the major clean-up efforts taking place this weekend.
Humanity First’s command center leads conducted assessment visits in Staten Island, Coney Island, and Long Beach. In Staten Island, they met with New York City officials, who allocated an area to Humanity First to focus their clean-up efforts. In Coney Island, the Humanity First team met with displaced families that have taken refuge in local shelters; Humanity First will assist with cleaning up their houses over the next few days. Long Beach is another area that was heavily impacted by Hurricane Sandy and there is much work that needs to be done in this area. Humanity First spoke with the emergency response team in that area and has been in touch with the local authorities.
Aside from cleaning, the major needs for many families include mattresses, bedding and dishes, and Humanity First is exploring ways to provide these items through donation projects that will be launched shortly.
November 7, 2012
Today’s plan included organizing the Humanity First Command Center in Queens, New York, in order to better utilize the volunteers that are already there and prepare for the volunteers that are expected to arrive over the weekend. Orientations packets including maps of the area were put together for volunteers to help them understand and move around the area more efficiently. Humanity First Canada has also offered volunteers who can get to NY as early as Monday, if the need arises.
Due to worsened weather conditions in the NY area, plans for visiting and assessing the need in Staten Island had to be postponed.
As a result of the meeting between Attiya Malik, the Regional Ambassador of Humanity First in NY, and the organization NY Cares, Humanity First is now exploring several possibilities on how they can collaborate with NY Cares.
There is an additional need for Humanity First’s services in Atlantic City, New Jersey. So far, although power has been restored, there is still a dire need for supplies, such as space heaters, sleeping bags and warm clothing. The team will be meeting with the Humanity First Medical Coordinator in the New Jersey area tomorrow to continue assessment of the needs in the area.
There is a possible need for Humanity First’s services in Atlantic City, NJ. So far, in AC even though power has been restored, there is still a dire need for heating supplies such as space heaters. Sleeping bags and warm clothing is next on the list. The team plans on meeting with the Medical Coordinator in NJ area tomorrow to further assess the needs in the area and see how Humanity First can help.
November 6, 2012
A meeting between Humanity First and NY Cares’ headquarters has been arranged for tomorrow. In the meantime, they have given an opportunity to Humanity First in Coney Island to go and distribute donations.
The Councilman in Far Rockaway has requested Humanity First’s assistance.A location in Queens needs clean up so in the process of putting together a group of volunteers.
In Lower Manhattan, a lot of families still do not have power so a team of Humanity First volunteers will go thereon Thursday to assess their needs. Possibility of providing flu shots in the area is also being discussed.
In Brooklyn, there are about 400 families who have been displaced and put in a shelter. They need mattresses and help cleaning up so a team will be put together to help them over the next few days.
Humanity First has been receiving a lot of collaboration requests from other NGOs working in the area. Why Hunger has been forwarding requests to Humanity First from different shelters and Humanity First will be teaming up with Red Cross tomorrow in serving hot food in specific areas.A Jewish Association has also requested for help in Far Rockaway with volunteers.
November 5, 2012
With the assistance from Humanity First, a generator was delivered to the family in Howard Beach, NY whose son suffers from a severe respiratory ailment that requires medical equipment. More generators, once they arrive, will be loaned out for cell phone charging purposes.
Humanity First’s Regional Ambassador in NY was able to set up a meeting with NY Cares at their office. They are interested in talking about a grant for food and water supplies at some shelters and for other areas in need. In similar news, the Director at the command center met with the Councilman in Far Rockaway to discuss needs.
Brooklyn team was able to distribute some hats, gloves etc by raising funds locally.
In Long Island, Humanity First has been working with various organizations to help out. Humanity First helped a Jewish organization with distributing food in the area.Red Cross and the Mayor’s department in Glen Cove has also been giving out Humanity First’s number for hot food for shelters and various shelters and organizations have contacted Humanity First asking for volunteers. Humanity First is also looking into renting a van for a Mobile Meal Plan.
In Staten Island, one of Humanity First’s Medical Coordinator spoke to Ed Vancheyin Red Cross, who is a Partnership Coordinator for the Disaster Health Services and is willing to partner up with Humanity First in setting up a command center. Our Medical Coordinator also met up with two nurses who are part of the NY State Nurses’ Union who would also like to partner up with Humanity First. They are willing to provide nurses and also help with clean up.
Aside from that, phone calls were made out to medical vendors asking to donate some basic medical supplies such as wheelchairs, gloves etc.
Humanity First is expecting to have at least 100 more volunteers arrive over the weekend, from all different locations.
November 4, 2012
A group of 15 HF volunteers went to Breezy Point in Rockaway, Queens, NY. Breezy Point is one of the hardest hit areas by hurricane Sandy. HF had been contacted by City Hall to help distribute food and water to the victims of Sandy. Due to flooding, fires and sewage backup, the local water in this area is not drinkable. Getting to Breezy Point was very challenging, although the city has done an amazing job of moving flooded cars and debris to the sides of the roads. On the one lane road to Breezy Point, the group had to maneuver around cars, fallen trees, debris, pools of water and in some cases boats that had floated out of their docking areas and were marooned in the middle of the street. The lack of cell phone signal and no road signs only added to the challenge.
Once there, Humanity First volunteers along with volunteers from other organizations started going door to door taking down their information and inquiring about their needs so proper aid could be given to each individual. The other half of the volunteers began by organizing piles of donations, helping people find what they needed and giving firefighters and relief workers bags of items that were in high demand so they could pass them out along their routes. The main need was for cleaning supplies with baby items and coats coming in next, flashlights and batteries were also sought after. Through all this chaos all the volunteers worked tirelessly.
November 3, 2012
A team of 15 Humanity First volunteers went door-to-door in groups in the Howard Beach area in Queens, New York for an all day community clean-up mission. Residents in this area experienced severe flooding from both the ocean and a creek, and flood water levels rose above 7 feet in the houses. Almost all the cars have been totaled due to saltwater damage. The volunteers offered whatever assistance was needed and compiled a list of short-term and long-term needs that they will follow-up on immediately.
Volunteers began by helping residents empty their garages and first floor apartments. Everything that people owned in these structures was destroyed and weighed down with water. The curbs outside the houses were filled up with every kind of possession from toys and books to clothes, furniture and electronics. Another group of volunteers focused on making lists of immediate needs. The items in high demand were canned soups, thick construction/garden gloves, bleach, trash bags, paper towels, flashlights, batteries, hand warmers, and matches/lighters. These goods were purchased from nearby stores and distributed between eight houses.
The Humanity First team ordered a generator for a family with a son suffering from a severe respiratory ailment. His condition requires medical equipment, so he is currently staying with a family friend away from his parents. With the assistance of Humanity First, the generator will be ordered to their home and the family will be reunited.
All victims that Humanity First was able to assist were very thankful. At one residence, a family member stated, "I really commend what you're doing. We're lucky we still have a roof over our head, there are others out there who are much worse off. I'd like to get involved with you, and help them out." This statement shows the true strength and spirit of New Yorkers.
November 2, 2012
Humanity First volunteers went to Lower Manhattan and assisted Nazareth Housing, a community outreach facility, and The Bowery Mission, a community housing center. Both places were overwhelmed by the need for basic amenities.Michael Callaghan, the Executive Director of Nazareth Housing, said they've never seen this much activity. Volunteers have been working non-stop since the hurricane hit. Normally they see around 20-30 people in a day, but currently, they're seeing around 200 families and more come in each day as word gets out. The most pressing needs at Nazareth Housing were supplies for families. Humanity First gave out 100 blankets, 5 cases of diapers, 10 cases of AA batteries (48 per case), 10 cases of D batteries (12 per case), 2 cases of hand warmers (100 per case), 30 boxes of children's Benadryl, 30 boxes of children's Motrin, 10 bottles of Pedilyte, 50 packs of fruit snacks, 10 boxes of graham crackers, 2 cases of instant oatmeal, 2 cases of individual servings of apple sauce.
At the Bowery Mission, Peter Fitton, Volunteer Operations Manager, said they feed hundreds of people daily. They're running their kitchen on a generator but were having difficulty with supplies and trying their best to keep their doors open 24/7. Humanity First was able to give Bowery Mission 500lbs of potatoes, 200lbs of apples, 2 cases of bananas, 30 dozen eggs, 20 large cases of oatmeal, and 100lbs of ground beef/ground turkey, which will be used to feed hundreds through the weekend.
Humanity First also continued their assessment of Staten Island, New York. The Humanity First medical team was able to provide immediate medical consultancy and medicines to the shelter at Susan Wagner High School, housing 400-500 residents. During this mission, Humanity First also identified a great need for counseling of distressed shelter residents who have lost all of their belongings, and planned to return to the shelter to provide additional medical care and medications, as well as counseling to the displaced victims.
The Humanity First team met with the mayor of Staten Island and offered their services and assistance for the community. The mayor was appreciative and requested assistance from volunteers in cleanup in the days to come.
Humanity First USA's OKOF Program Director spent the day at Fulton Houses in Chelsea, New York, one of the city's low-income housing projects. She helped create food bags being delivered to the elderly and ill. About 40% of the students in this city housing attend the school she teaches at in Chelsea and have been without power, heat, and water since Monday.
November 1, 2012
Humanity First USA began the assessment of areas devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Local teams in New Jersey and New York made contact with local authorities and explored all areas of needs in the initial assessment.
"I recently was a victim of Hurricane Sandy, and this past Saturday - November 10, 2012 - a group of volunteers from Humanity First helped me throw out the contents of my house. They were all very compassionate and respectful people, and with their help, made a very hard part of this process a lot easier. After they helped me, they proceeded to help numerous families on my street and in the neighborhood, South Beach, Staten Island. Thanks for everything."
The Humanity First team encountered and assisted a young couple who were living in the basement of their home. They had only the clothes and the rain boots they had ran out with when the hurricane struck – all of their other possessions were destroyed. The team returned later in the day with shoes, thermals, and socks for the couple so that they would be able to have a change of clothes, other than what they had been wearing since Sunday.
The volunteers also visited a newlywed couple who had lost everything. The most treasured possession lost wasn’t the iPod, or the TV, but the wedding photos and albums the couple had barely had a chance to enjoy. The photos were taken in Pakistan and the digital copies had been stored on a computer, which was destroyed by the flood. The clothes and the furniture will be replaced, but the photos are gone for good.
One resident described the chaos the night of the flood: “We had been watching the news all day but weren’t concerned about our safety. Zone A had been ordered to evacuate but we were in Zone B and they hadn’t mentioned anything on the news. In the evening, we finally turned the TV off, had dinner and were getting ready for bed when a man came knocking on the doors screaming ‘Get out, GET OUT NOW!’ We looked out and water was rushing up behind him. Within minutes, water came pouring in from all sides and the pressure blew out our basement door and water gushed inside. We tried driving out, but the water got so high that the car stopped and we had to walk in freezing cold water up to higher ground.”
Humanity First is registered in 43 countries across 6 continents, and has been working on human development projects and responding to disasters since 1994. These have included the earthquakes in Turkey, Pakistan, Japan and Iran, floods in Africa and Latin America, hurricanes (Katrina and Rita) , tornado's (Kansas) and wild fires (California) in the USA, Indonesia and Bangladesh, and conflicts in Eastern Europe.
Since its inception and IRS registration in 2004, Humanity First has been focused on spending most of the raised funds on direct program related expenses. As a result, more than 90% of its funds are in that expense category. This is achieved through dedicated volunteers in its management, and program operation teams.