We’re here because the Lord put us here, and we love it.”
That is how Ken Geurink describes his time in Gulfport, Miss., where he and his wife, Mary, served with the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee’s Disaster Response Services. Several hard-hit counties in the region are still trying to get a handle on how to recover from 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.
CRWRC’s Needs Assessment teams work with local organizations to determine which areas are most likely to have low-income and under-insured families. Then the teams go door to door to conduct interviews.
“We sit down and talk to the clients for a while,” Geurink explained. “We hear about their lives and their stories. The recovery in a community hinges on knowing where the real needs are.”
Once the assessments are complete, the teams hand them over to local organizations for follow up.
The data collected shows all sorts of needs. Some people need major home renovations. Others need cars to get to their jobs. Still others need assistance with purchasing medication.
Needs assessments also provide opportunities to talk about the recovery process. “The interviews themselves are frequently very emotional,” said Mary Geurink. “The chance for the clients to just talk is very important.”
Here is a brief summary of the different phases of recovery that CRWRC is involved in:
Rapid Response: DRS Rapid Response teams are on the scene within days of a disaster to clear debris and meet immediate needs.
Organizing LTROs: CRWRC-DRS volunteers help local leaders develop a long-term relief organization (LTRO) to coordinate relief efforts in their community.
Assessing the Damage: DRS volunteers go door-to-door to inventory unmet needs.
Rebuilding: Volunteers go into affected areas to repair and rebuild damaged homes. This is often a multiyear commitment.
Community Development Consultation: CRWRC helps local organizations move from disaster response to addressing long-term needs.