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ARTICLE

Helping After Harvey

Bad things happen, but when they do, we can empower students to make a difference.

This past weekend’s unprecedented flooding in Texas and especially Houston reminds us of the leadership role we all must play during times of crisis. Responding to disaster requires resources, courage and helping hands. Heroes and helpers come from all walks of life—because they must.

And educators have an important part to play.

Hurricane Harvey and its subsequent storms continue to endanger vulnerable populations. As The Atlantic details here, the flooding in Houston disproportionately affects impoverished communities of color, people with disabilities, people experiencing homelessness and people who are undocumented. 

Meanwhile, 24-hour media coverage continues to inundate the public with images of trauma, including damaged communities and displaced individuals. It’s easy to get caught up in watching disaster take place and to feel incapable of action.

Resist this urge. As educators—and thus community leaders—you have the capacity to inspire collective action, whether you reside in Houston or elsewhere.

Use these resources to help your students respond to what is happening in Houston and the surrounding areas.

 

How Can You Help?

If you are in a geographic location that is close to Texas and it is possible to donate supplies, consider gathering diapers. Also, several food banks in the area accept tangible and monetary donations: Houston Food Bank, Galveston County Food Bank and the Corpus Christi Food Bank. Of course, people in the area are also in great need of disaster volunteers.

If you are farther away, spread the word at school that anyone can text 90999 from their phone to donate directly to the American Red Cross. Apple has also made iTunes and the App Store available for direct donations.

Collaborate with students and your school community to organize a way to raise funds for Harvey relief. Bake sales, car washes or change collections—let your students brainstorm ideas and then decide how to help.

Here are a few organizations that are taking donations and will give support exclusively to local relief and recovery efforts:

The American Red Cross has also made a call for blood donations. Consider holding a blood drive at your school or organizing a group effort to donate blood at a local Red Cross or blood bank.

Use social media for good. Post resources like those above so that people in your networks have that knowledge too. Share posts from celebrities like Kevin Hart and Houston Texans star J.J. Watt, who are challenging other celebrities to donate to relief efforts. 

Remember to open up space for students to debrief and share their thoughts about this tragedy. Many students may have family members or friends in the affected area. Furthermore, students who have been through similar trauma before may be triggered by the media coverage of Harvey. Many survivors of Hurricane Katrina who relocated to the Houston area are now experiencing similar tragedy again.

As the aftermath of Katrina taught us, disaster lingers long after the rain fades. Consider setting a reminder to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey beyond this initial surge of resources coming into the Houston area. This could include checking in to see what supplies Houston-area schools need in the months to come, or having students write letters and send care packages to remind their peers affected by the flooding that they are not forgotten, but cherished.

Bad things happen, but when they do, we can empower students to make a difference. 

 

Additional Resources 

'Life-Threatening Flooding.' What to Know About Hurricane Harvey

Inclusive Disaster Strategies

Responding to Natural Disasters: Helping Children and Families

New Orleans, Texas 

Hurricane Harvey: How to Help Victims of the Texas Storm

How to Help Hurricane Harvey Victims

 

Lauryn Mascareñaz is a teaching and learning specialist for Teaching Tolerance. 

Cory Collins is a staff writer for Teaching Tolerance.