The citizens of the United States have been busy in the Gulf Coast region for the last few years. Beyond the usual hustle and bustle of everyday life, people from all over the country were venturing out into flood waters using their personal vehicles to save friends, family, and even strangers. Droves of volunteers stepped up to help one another with rescue and recovery, not once, not twice, but on three separate occasions across Louisiana, Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. This organic, sometimes chaotic movement of people stepping up to help one another was swift, effective, and led to creation of the Cajun Relief Foundation.
In August of 2016, without warning, the Great Louisiana Flood dropped more rainwater on the area the Hurricane Katrina causing widespread flooding, damaging an estimated 146,000 homes, thousands of businesses, and killing 13 people. Local citizens took to the flooded streets in their personal boats to help rescue people from flooded homes, helping them get to safety, and earning the moniker of the Cajun Navy. The non-profit organization, the Cajun Relief Foundation was founded in the wake of the Louisiana Flood to help lead the charge of citizen-led disaster relief.
Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast from the Yucatan Peninsula to Rockport, Texas to the Louisiana border making land fall on three separate occasions in August of 2017. Harvey was responsible for loss of 90 lives and, in Texas, damages 185,000 homes. Still recovering from the effects of the Great Flood, the Cajun Navy, yet again, answered the call and expeditiously rushed the aid of Texas citizens and leading to the establishment of the Texas Navy as a part of the Cajun Relief Foundation.
As people were trying to comprehend the damage caused by Harvey, Hurricane Irma swept through the U.S. Virgin Islands, across the Caribbean, and Florida in early September 2017, followed by Hurricane Maria. These weather systems combined have killed at least 134 people and devastating the geographic regions in their path. 95% of the structures on Barbuda and St. Martin are damaged, 90% of the roads on Anguilla are impassible. The Cajun Relief Foundation, due to the success in Louisiana and Texas, was asked by Florida officials to take part in organizing the rescue and recovery efforts in the region.
The Federal and State governments have protocols they must follow to assist in recovery and relief, which take time to enact. Citizens can act much quicker to assist when disasters strike. In each scenario mentioned, citizens used their materials, time, and effort to help those in need. Thanks to the CrowdRelief platform provided by the Cajun Relief Foundation, there place where those in need and those willing to assist can register. The Cajun Relief Foundation serves, and helps to organize, individuals and organizations on the ground helping those in need. Through our technologies (CrowdRelief, Zello, etc.) we can quickly and effectively connect those in need to those with the capability and willingness to help on the ground. Through our network we can reach those in need and those willing to donate (whether it be time, money, supplies). Through our partnerships and programs (The Bucket Brigade) we are able to collect supplies and donations for areas in need. We are also able to keep the narrative alive and in front of people that can aid in expediting the recovery. A year later, Louisiana is still recovering from the Great Flood. Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico (and the rest of the Caribbean) will no doubt face the same challenges.
Natural disasters are not new. What has changed is how we respond to these events. We step up. We come together. We pool our resources together for the greater good. We utilize our networks and technology to help get the word out, find volunteers, and supplies, and keep the public aware of what is going on. We are the difference. Sometimes it is difficult to see the good in traumatic times, but over the last year or so, we have seen thousands of people stand up, come together, and demonstrate that through teamwork and innovation, we are still a country that believes in community.
If you are interested in volunteering please, visit the volunteer page for more information. Donations through www.cajunrelief.org are always welcome and appreciated!