October 28, 2013

CWS Undergirds Superstorm Sandy Recovery with Aid, Expertise

  • CWS emergency response staff Barry Shade (blue shirt) and Joann Hale (yellow jacket) meet with representatives of Coney Recovers in Coney Island, N.Y., to learn about that group’s Sandy long-term recovery work and to offer CWS training and grants. Photo: Carol Fouke-Mpoyo/CWS

  • Khaleel A. undertakes repairs to his Sandy-damaged bungalow in Sheepshead Bay, N.Y. He said he was still waiting for the city to do mold remediation, and didn’t know he could get a Disaster Case Manager to help his long-term recovery. Photo: Carol Fouke-Mpoyo/CWS

  • A year after Superstorm Sandy destroyed her hair salon and badly damaged her house in Far Rockaway, N.Y., Destiny is still “too stressed.” Tears welling in her eyes, she told CWS’s Barry Shade about her ongoing struggle to recover. Photo: Carol Fouke-Mpoyo/CWS

  • CWS’s Sandra Kennedy-Owes and Joann Hale lead a “Recovery Tools and Training” workshop in Tom’s River, N.J., equipping long-term recovery groups to help Superstorm Sandy survivors in New Jersey. Photo: Chris Herlinger/CWS

“You feel like, ‘Oh my God, I lost everything.’  You feel overwhelmed.  Then you see a lot of people trying to help you.”  That is how Karina Arias of Moonachie, N.J., sums up her experiences of this past year after Superstorm Sandy. 

First came despair as the storm surge last October 29 badly damaged her mobile home and destroyed everything inside. 

“We had a lot of water inside,” Arias said.  “We had to take everything out.”  She and her five children, then ages 4 to 13, were displaced, as were Arias’ father and other relatives living in other homes in the same mobile home park.

But hope followed when local churches sent teams to help them clean up – and when the Bergen County Long-Term Recovery Committee stepped forward to assess and help meet their and other Sandy survivors’ unmet needs.

Local long-term recovery groups are key to helping Sandy survivors recover.  Church World Service helps communities create effective long-term recovery groups, offering seed grants and training that helps them organize to find and use the resources of survivors, the community, government programs and other partners for recovery. 

Arias’ Disaster Case Manager Lisa Ewart, along with several colleagues at the Bergen County VOAD Long-Term Recovery Committee, benefited from a CWS “Recovery Tools and Training” workshop last winter.  Ewart was a full-time volunteer with Occupy Sandy at the time.

“The great thing about that training is it is very comprehensive,” Ewart said.  “I learned about all areas of disaster recovery.  It gave me a great foundation. 

“The training was especially helpful in terms of safety,” she continued.  “I learned signs that it’s not safe to enter a house.  I learned about protective gear.  The case management section was also very useful, understanding the whole long-term recovery process, working with clients and understanding what they are going through, coming up with a recovery plan and guiding the client through that.”

In Sandy’s immediate aftermath, CWS material aid provided comfort and practical assistance to survivors in the United States and the Caribbean.

Since Superstorm Sandy, CWS has mobilized shipments of CWS Kits and Blankets with a total value of nearly $1.169 million for Sandy survivors up and down the U.S. East Coast. 

CWS also assisted food cooperatives in northwest Haiti that sustained storm damage and sent emergency assistance to Cuba, including funding for emergency family food packages and water provision.  CWS also provided its longtime partner, the Cuban Council of Churches, with a shipment of CWS Kits and Blankets valued at $176,490 that had been in process before the hurricane.

CWS emergency response specialists have met with long-term recovery and other community groups and have reached more than one thousand participants with “Recovery Tools and Training” workshops in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and West Virginia.

CWS also held four “Disaster Case Management” workshops in New Jersey in October.  More CWS recovery workshops, including training in health and safety and in emotional and spiritual care, are envisioned for central New York State, coastal New York City and Long Island, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

“CWS’s goal is 105 trainings and 60 in-person consultation meetings in Sandy-affected states by May 31, 2014,” said Barry Shade, CWS Associate Director for Domestic Disaster Response.  “This ambitious schedule is possible thanks to an award of $305,395 from the American Red Cross for CWS’s Sandy recovery work.  Claire Galiano, a highly experienced health and safety trainer who is equally well versed in long-term recovery operations, has been brought on staff through May 2014 to assist with this work.”

CWS also has received approximately $600,000 for its Hurricane Sandy Appeal and has spent about $150,000 to date for shipping CWS Kits and Blankets, trainings, and for undesignated “seed grants” – typically $5,000 – to long-term recovery groups (11 so far, in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and West Virginia, with many more expected).   The remaining $450,000 will be used for grants, trainings and for food pantry support.

For their part, Arias and her extended family are well on their way to recovery.  Working with community partners, Ewart and her colleagues organized home repairs and secured furnaces, water heaters, appliances, beds and other essential furnishings. 

By March 2013, Arias and her children were back home. 

“Calm comes after the storm,” Arias said.  “Now we are ok.”