WHEN THEY HAVE TRULY LOST EVERYTHING, WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Throughout the last five years, I have had limitless opportunities with EM (Experience Mission) to volunteer around the world.
What started as an internship in the mountains of Appalachia, West Virginia, then led to spending six months in the Caribbean countries of Haiti, Jamaica, and Belize living with host families and volunteering within the community.
The most recent adjustment in my position with EM is taking on a Relief Coordinator role. With countless tragedies happening more often, there is a sobering reality of people needing help now more than ever before.
One of our guiding values as an organization, that I align so strongly with, is that we’re not going to save the day. This isn’t a situation that we can walk into as outsiders and expect to throw money into a place and everything is magically fixed.
Change takes time. Caring takes time. Partnerships take time. It is a humbling thing to enter a community and know that you are just playing a small part in bringing hope and empowering others for long-term change.
Our newest partnership is with Grand Bahama Island within the Bahamas, after Hurricane Dorian devastated countless communities in August of 2019.
This was a record hitting hurricane that wiped out several areas of the island and was the worst storm to ever come in contact with the islands of the Bahamas.
In the direct area, we are partnering with, more than half the homes were washed away.
Everything needs to be rebuilt, including power lines to provide electricity to the East End of the island, as well as re-laying pipes to have running water.
For those that stuck around, the sobering reality is that they are living in tents outside their homes.
Employment opportunities have declined to an all-time low, and any form of a sense of “normal” is far from being achieved.
Working in a relief zone often means living in a tension of hope and hopelessness. You are entering into someone’s life at their most vulnerable—when they have truly lost everything.
There is often no clear direction of how a relief zone is structured. In many ways, it’s truly an “all hands on deck” mentality. However, in the midst of destruction is when relationships are essential.
The thing about caring for others and building relationships is that it’s not always easy.
More times than not, it means you are being invited into the depths and trenches of another person’s life. Humans are messy, and that results in no clear blueprint of how to move forward. hen living with our partners in their home and sleeping on a cot, cooking with a propane camping stove, and having to rent a car since all were washed away in the storm, you are allowed a unique perspective into an individual’s life without all of their material possessions.
It’s in these unique moments that the raw humanity of the situation becomes the most apparent.
When all of our things are stripped away, we are then able to look at each other eye to eye and see how similar we truly are.
We all want to love and be loved.
We all want to care and be cared for.
And we all hope that our lives inspire those around us to live more fruitful lives with others at the center.