by Carl Manning, American Red Cross
When there’s a disaster the Red Cross is always there to provide needed assistance, but it’s an effort that requires numerous partners, partners such as the Islamic Relief USA members who recently arrived in Houston to lend a hand.
It was a chance for the two organizations to work together following the record flooding that left hundreds of homes damaged or destroyed and lives lost.
Abdullah Shawky came from Dallas to join a dozen other members of the faith-based organization’s Disaster Response Team with their blue and white vests.
“I can’t think of a better way to help and I jumped at the opportunity to serve and be part of the helping process,” Abdullah said. “I can’t just sit and do nothing so I volunteer and I get hooked.”
Abdullah said there’s another reason he enjoys working with the organization, it helps counter the negative publicity that his Muslim faith has received in recent years.
“We’re countering all the nonsense on TV. Our faith directs us to take care of our neighbor and help those in need,” he said.
Derrick Lea, of Washington, is the director of the U.S. program for Islamic Relief USA and said the team came from around the U.S, including Mississippi, California and New Jersey.
The first thing the group did after arriving in Houston was help out in three shelters that were set up to take care of those driven from their home by the high water.
“When you see the response by the people you help, there is no greater reward,” Derrick said.
The Islamic group then switched over to helping out with damage assessment, working with Red Cross volunteers.
After a briefing that included well-marked maps, each Islamic member was paired with a Red Cross volunteer to go out into various sections of the city to assess the flood damage to homes.
The fact that the Islamic members had already received a Red Cross training course in damage assessment, it was much easier to pair them with their Red Cross counterparts to expand the number of teams in the field.
Lou Fuentes, the Red Cross damage assessment co-manager, said he was glad the group decided to help out.
“If it wasn’t for the Islamic group, we would have had to bring in more people to get the job done and that would be an additional cost,” he said. “It is wonderful to have people trained to our standards ready to step in and help out.”