Matter, Energy, and Life of Michaela A. Castello.

Joplin Trip Aftermath

Now that we’re back I wanted to give one final update on the trip and disaster response itself. While I think everybody would agree that we made a difference, there are areas for improvement.

It was interesting seeing the FEMA contractors working alongside nonprofits and church-based organizations. While their street closures made it tough to get to certain areas, in general I thought the contractors were relatively accomadating of the volunteer groups. Their impressive crane trucks were constantly driving by to collect the piles of debris we made.

The organizations I saw the most of were Red Cross and Samaritan’s Purse. Red Cross was doing great work providing homeowners and volunteers alike with meals, snacks, and drinks during the day (although I believe that service ended this week). Samaritan’s Purse was very well organized, and while they follow a very strict code of rules (including ending around 5 PM and not working on Sundays) they are great at getting people together from all over and putting them to work. They also are well-supplied with equipment and tools. Additionally a number of church groups were providing meals and showers for anybody who needed them (including some excellent burgers).

Andrew mentioned this a bit while on the trip, and I agree: FEMA should be responsible for managing a master list of homes needing help. Because even well-intentioned volunteers walking onto private property to clean up debris isn’t very wise, we had to either go through Samaritan’s Purse, who had lists of places they had already cleared to work, or ask the FEMA workers or homeowners directly as we drove through a neighborhood.

I think it would be helpful if a centralized database was maintained that homeowners could add their houses to, perhaps with a code for what kind of work they wanted done. That way anybody who wanted to help could directly find out where they were needed, as could organizations. In the meantime, homeowners could approximate this by putting up a “volunteers welcome” sign in their yard.

As for our part of the trip, driving there took two days each way. I think it might have been better to have everybody in the group cleared to drive the church vehicles. By trading out drivers we could have gone straight from California to Joplin in one stretch, saving money on the hotel and having more time to work once we were there.

The spirit of cooperation within our own group was strong as well. We came from different backgrounds and now that we’re back we returned to them, but while we were there we were all Re:Live. To me that is how a church should be.

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