As of two weekends ago, the coastline of Texas was momentously bombarded by the massive Hurricane Harvey. Houston was subjected to tons of gallons of horrendously toxic water. People lost their homes, their furniture, their cars, their pets, and in some cases, their life. Hearts all over the country were broken, and some chose to heed the call for help.
While donations for collections of clothing, resources, and food was sent out, the real need for Harvey victims is actual people. Helpers to blow through houses, pull out materials, and start the air-out process are integral. Houstonians feel a real need for replenished hope, as well as help to tear through and build up homes.
There have been numerous volunteer groups that have sent all the people they can on job sites, but there is always a need for more agents of construction. With waiting lists that are months long, people pay thousands of dollars for the team to clear out, gut, and rebuild their home that will never come.
All this being said, I had to do something. I could sit by on my bed with tons of belongings and pray for victims, or I could GO. A group of friends and I partnered with Sozo Church in San Marcos Texas to drive down to Friendswood Texas this past weekend. And my mind was blown.
Prepping for this job, I packed work gloves and painted on clothes. But I wasn't mentally prepared for what I would see in the slightest. We departed our host home early Friday morning for the church that would give us our housing assignment. We were told we were now on a Water Extraction Team, and our top priority would be to Finish The Job. So many volunteer groups would start a project with a household, forget to pull nails from the studs of the home, and it could still get condemned from the left behind mold that would grow.
Keeping in mind that homeowners would, understandably, be defensive of their belongings, I was ready for a real tediously long process of sorting stuff all weekend. Instead, the very first work sight we arrived at, we were given hammers and crowbars and told to "go at it" by the homeowner. His house had been completely submerged by water, and he had managed to pull everything out he could. The rest he told us to throw to the curb and destroy from the ruinous mold spores. Hours later, the home was simply studs, a foundation, and an outer wall. The work was done.
Driving to the next work sight was heartbreaking. Mounds and mounds of trash, belongings, and home-guts were everywhere. Empty shells remained of each house. People were left with everything ruined and nothing to call their own. It was a heavy moment.
Walking through the next house made me want to pass out. There was black mold growing on the walls, no home owner, and trash heaped floor to ceiling. Having evacuated her home, we found out that the Grandma and Kiddos that lived there had been hoarders. We faced moldy cheese sandwiches, black water-filled drawers, bottles of crusted over alcohol, and a stench that made our eyes water. Sifting through the old clothes and appliances took the rest of friday and all of Saturday. We had to knock down walls, pull nails, and rip up wood flooring just to MAYBE save the home.
After seeing all of the destruction first hand and hearing all of the second hand accounts, I am still getting flashbacks of this weekend that make me want to both cry and puke. But we went and I know with full confidence we made a difference, and all of the groups from all over the country that we encountered will continue to. I still pray for the volunteers and victims every day, and can't wait for the clean up to be over and lives to be changed.