Knowing what citizen led efforts can do in a time of crisis, Crowd Relief jumped into gear as Hurricane Harvey quickly approached the Texas gulf shore. Before Harvey had even made landfall, citizen led efforts were underway to ensure that as many people as possible were rescued from rising flood waters that would inevitably envelop a good portion of the state of Texas. Using the Cajun Navy model, which was created out a need for fast, citizen led relief in the aftermath of The Great Flood of Louisiana in 2016, the Texas Navy was born. As the needs of Texas grew, the volunteer relief did as well. From stay at home parents to lawyers and doctors, citizens from around the world answered the call to assist.

The diverse needs were met by people of all backgrounds and abilities. Boaters arrived at rally points and were dispatched by a team of dispatchers, some who had years of experience and others who had never dispatched a day in their life. Social media played a significant role in the countless lives saved. Facebook, twitter and Instagram were used to make and receive distress calls. Citizen volunteers gathered this information and placed it into a shareable database that allowed dispatchers to use the Zello application to send boats into neighborhoods for rescues. Mapping apps, like Waze, allowed boaters to navigate through roadways turned waterways with more ease than ever before. The rapidly growing citizen led efforts gave way to new and creative uses of social media and volunteer time. Rally points and staging points changed constantly, so teams were created to address and relay those important pieces of the Cajun Relief infrastructure.

Citizen volunteers flooded the state of Texas to take part in this amazing, fast paced story. They spent many nights with little to no sleep, catching cat naps in their trucks, boats and parking lots. This gave way for another team to organically develop. The hospitality team was created on the fly to match citizen volunteers with citizen host families throughout the affected area who suffered minimal to no damage. Residents opened their homes, hearths and hearts to the people who so readily opened their hands to save countless lives. From a place to lay, to a warm meal and shower, Crowd Relief worked hand in hand to ensure that the volunteers had a safe place to go at the end of the day. Cajun Relief’s story and mission continues to grow and evolve. It’s easy to feel helpless as we watch catastrophe unfold in other areas, but citizen-led relief through Cajun Relief is a platform that ALL people can find a home in. We’re all in this together and thanks to social media and networking, we can all have a part in these stories of hope and humanity.

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