There is no clear dividing line between immediate relief and long-term recovery.
Those who can afford to start thinking about the future as the water recedes and the debris is cleared.
During my tenure at United Way, I’ve seen many natural disasters. I was in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and Japan after the earthquake and tsunami there in 2011. I know the current devastation is real, and that it often creates more questions than answers.
Right now, United Way and our partners are on the ground across the Gulf Coast, Florida and the Caribbean. We are supporting immediate relief and helping families think about long-term needs.
Last week, United Way’s U.S. President, Mary Sellers, traveled to Texas to witness the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey and speak with those affected. She saw lives on hold, but she also witnessed neighbors and communities rallying together. She “saw hope.”
Because of the destruction affecting communities right now, it’s difficult to call anything a silver lining. Yet I take solace in the fact that during these trying times, people are recognizing the power of community.
We saw it in Houston, where folks marched through flooded streets to check on homes, and groups like the Cajun Navy came to the rescue of flooded-out families. We’re now seeing it in Florida and the Caribbean.
People often ask me what it will take to bring people – both in the U.S. and worldwide – back together. How can we heal divides?
The answer isn’t simple and it never will be. People need to trust one another. They need more ways to come together, and to give and get support.
Stories of compassion build a foundation for change. Every time someone receives a bottle of water or a new place to stay, they are learning about the power of individuals and communities to help us heal, move forward together and pursue a better life.
United Way will help ensure that these new foundations become recipes for long-term renewal. We stay in place long after the waters and the headlines recede. We bring together businesses, government, nonprofits and citizens to make a lasting difference in people’s lives. We help families and communities come back stronger.
The task is just beginning, but I believe in people. I believe in them because I’ve seen their ability to bounce back in all corners of the world. The road to recovery is long, but working together, our collective determination and strength are greater than any hurricane or natural disaster.