Latino Engagement Teams (LETs) played a significant role in service delivery during the recent Hurricane Laura Disaster Response (DR) Operation. LETs activate soon after a disaster hits to reach out to unserved and underserved groups in disaster areas. For Hurricane Laura, LETs hit the ground running to meet the needs of Latino survivors in both Texas and Louisiana.    

“The initial thought was to have two teams. Once we made an assessment of how the communities were impacted, we had the two teams work together,” says Pedro Carrera, Community Engagement and Partnerships Manager and LET lead in both states.  

Both groups were initially staged at different locations, with the Texas team staying in Lumberton and the Louisiana team in Baton Rouge. They eventually came together and positioned themselves in Lumberton to ensure quicker access to targeted pockets of Latinos in Louisiana. 

Food and supplies for the operation were stored in Orange, Texas because it was a good location from which to order and serve those in need. “A key learning from this effort was that, unlike our DRs, when a disaster happens it sees no state borders,” Carrera comments.    

One big challenge on the Texas side was identifying areas that were safe to drive and making sure the teams didn’t get lost. There was a need to be in close communication with local authorities to determine accessible areas of impacted families.   

Teams followed Red Cross COVID-19 guidelines to make sure everyone was safe by keeping everyone socially distanced, particularly during community events and data gathering operations. In one instance there were many people congregated in one room to receive cleaning supplies, but the Red Cross and its partners were careful to organize families in lines to keep everyone at the right distance.   

Some exciting outcomes of this operation were:  

  • Vulnerable populations were mapped in and served on the ground  
  • Other ethnic minorities, found alongside Latinos during the response process, were also assisted  
  • New relationships were identified and established with local leaders and community partners    

Houston volunteer Gabriel Alvigini, describing the experience of working with affected families as part of LET in this operation, says “I am grateful for having the opportunity to help others. Helping survivors who didn’t have a place to sleep or food to eat motivated me a lot.”    

Photos by Gabriel Alvigini, Greater Houston volunteer. Written by Marco Bracamontes.