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How Can We Help Houston?

As groups assess the damage and determine what they need, we may need to be patient.

Like many of you out there, our team has been feeling the heartbreak the city of Houston and surrounding areas are experiencing right now, and wondering if there’s anything we can do to help those areas pull things back together.

We’ve seen the uplifting video where there’s a seemingly endless line of trucks pulling boats to go help search for and rescue citizens, and more locally we know of Omahans who have signed up with the Red Cross and decided to deploy down to flooded areas of Texas.

It offers so much hope to see that when disaster hits, people move and they move quickly to offer their helping hands.

Our minds have been particularly focused on the students in and around Houston.

 

When will classes start up again? How long will it take to repair schools? How long will it take to repair homes, and how many students will even have a home to come back to?

And the biggie for us, considering our work: How many books, whether they’re in a library or in someone’s home will have been totally destroyed? And how far might that set back kiddos, especially those whose lives were in disarray even before Hurricane Harvey hit?

We couldn’t help imagining how a storm of such magnitude might impact our city if it somehow happened in Omaha.

And we didn’t realize how much an event like that could change our work and mission until we spoke this week with a nonprofit in Houston called Books Between Kids.

The group focuses on helping build in-home libraries for students by holding book drives and free book fairs in schools across Houston. But in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the Books Between Kids team is rallying to figure out how to maintain their mission and goals if:

  1. Kids don’t have homes to store their in-home libraries,
  2. Kids don’t have schools to go back to, at least not very soon, and
  3. School and public libraries are completely wiped out?

According to the group’s program coordinator, right now they are focused on preparing books that might be delivered to shelters and rescue centers or more directly to families once people start returning to their homes, but it’s still hard to say how they will be distributed. 

“Even with non-profit to non-profit interactions we have to be patient and make sure that our help is timed and designed just right so as to be more help than burden.” – Trent Hale, Books Between Kids Program Coordinator

Beyond this immediate action, however, they are unsure about how exactly their team should move forward – what will be most helpful and impactful in the coming weeks, months and possibly even years.

We thought it was important to share this particular nonprofit’s predicament, and a sentiment that can get lost in the mix when natural disasters hit:

Diving in to help these areas in Texas now is necessary, but there’s a big difference between the immediate crisis and the sometimes more seemingly subtle, long-term one.

Rebuilding, not only physical structures but families’ routines and some semblance of normalcy can require a much different kind of helping hand. It might also require patience from those who want to help – which can be hard to tame in the face of disaster, but is necessary to allow those closest to the issues to figure out what they really need and what is most helpful.

It’s easy for the Houston area’s needs to rank high on our “How Can I Help” list now, but we can’t forget that they will need our help just as much, possibly even more, once waters recede.

So, in our efforts to reach out and help, we learned it’s more beneficial for us to wait until more is known about the state of the city – and that right now it’s actually not helpful for us to gather books to send down to families who may have no place to put them.

We are leaning on Books Between Kids to tell us what they need, and we suggest you do the same if you find a group you’d like to support.

Start by reaching out to a nonprofit group’s communications, volunteer or program coordinator and ask what’s most helpful right now – don’t assume what they need unless they’ve made it clear, and understand that they may also ask that you wait until they have more information.

 

We’ll keep you posted on how you can assist Books Between Kids once we hear back from their team.

If you have ideas on this topic that you think are important for people to know, please share them in the comment section below.

 

 

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