"This is one of the worst disasters I've ever seen in my career, hands down," - FEMA Administrator Brock Long
The 2018 wildfires in California were the deadliest and most destructive in the state's history. Vulnerable families lost their homes, their livelihoods, and their hopes for the future. In the immediate aftermath and in response to an urgent request by the Butte County School District, International Relief Teams provided funding for textbooks for students in Butte County who lost all of their school supplies in the fires. The Camp Fire alone destroyed 6 schools, damaged 8 schools, and affected nearly 4,000 students.
In 2019 and 2020, IRT sent 59 volunteers on 4 teams to Keswick in Shasta County California to rebuild 10 homes. In the tiny town of Keswick, all but two homes were destroyed by the Carr fire. Keswick is a low income area where the median income is only $19,500 a year. Many residents do not have sufficient funds to rebuild their homes.
In 2021, IRT began working in the town of Paradise, CA to rebuild homes for low income families and sent 41 volunteers on 5 teams to rebuild 7 homes. Paradise was nearly wiped off the map by the fire. Only 5% of buildings in the town remained without serious damage. In 2022, we are continuing to send volunteer teams to rebuild homes for as long as we are needed.
See upcoming open volunteer opportunities for 2023 here.
Watch a news story about our recent team's trip to Paradise, CA here.
Read Patty's story here.
*Photo Credits: Noah Berger/AP (above), Jessica Christian/The Chronicle (thumbnail image on previous page)
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Randy and Lisa return to their home after the Camp Fire in Paradise, California
WAR IN UKRAINE –UPDATE August 26, 2022 Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Prior to this, Ukraine had a population of approximately 44 million people. Six months into the war, over 10,000Ukrainian civilians have been killed, according to BBC news. The devastating humanitarian catastrophe continues to unfold within its borders and in neighboring countries in Eastern Europe.
On November 8, 2018, the Camp Fire ravaged my hometown of Old Magalia and surrounding communities, destroying everything in its path. The devastation included my home: five generations of memories, thousands of pictures, my livelihood as an artist, and my grandson’s safe place. Additionally, it devastated my lifelong goal of owning my own home, without debt, and the life I had dreamed of, near family and friends.
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“You can’t imagine the damage. You see it on TV, but until you see it in person, you don’t understand it,” said Gene Woolsey, a volunteer onsite distributing supplies to victims.
“It’s heartbreaking to see what happened,” said IRT volunteer Ken Marsh about the devastated town of Paradise, CA. The entire town of Paradise in northern California was destroyed by the Camp Fire in 2018. These wildfires were the deadliest and most destructive in the state’s history. About 30,000 families lost their homes and their livelihoods.
Providing relief after a disaster not only sustains life, it maintains hope for the future and the potential for full economic recovery. IRT’s role in providing disaster relief is becoming even more important as the number of natural disasters increases due to climate change.
“A massive fire burned in the camp. At that moment, everything that had been built and arranged for four years was destroyed by fire within half of a day,” said Samuda Begum, a refugee living in a camp on the Bangladesh/Myanmar border.
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“The military attacked my village. They set fire to the brush and shot five people, including my husband Mohammad Shafi,” said Marzaan. “When I arrived in Bangladesh, my only belongings were my nine children. We had nothing.”
“The home was completely destroyed. Everything blew away,” said Nellie Santiago. “Our lives have changed forever. Nothing is the same.”
A young family moves home two years after catastrophic flooding in Louisiana Crystal’s real-life nightmare began two years ago in August 2016 when it started to rain. Crystal lived with her partner Kevin and 15-year-old son, Micheal, outside Baton Rouge in Springfield, Louisiana. When Kevin and Crystal bought their home six years ago, they did not know it was in a 1-in-1,000 year flood zone and that 2016 was the year the river would flood for the first time in human memory.
Jamilah’s daily routine in Furuglay had consisted of working on her farm and looking after her livestock, in order to earn money to feed her children. But as Somalia continued to suffer from severe drought, this resulted in food shortages that left many, like Jamilah, in desperate living conditions.
Rina’s house was one of more than 140,000 homes that were severely damaged and left uninhabitable by the catastrophic floods of 2016 in Louisiana. Rina and her husband Juan, both in their 70’s, were left homeless, just like many of their neighbors. Their house didn’t have any floors anymore, their kitchen was destroyed, their rooms where infested with mold, and it smelled like sewage. “We couldn’t go back in. Everything we had, everything we worked for, was damaged or gone. The house was completely ruined,” she said.
Colin Kirkpatrick of Dublin, Ohio just turned seven years old and he chose to celebrate his special day in an unconventional way. Instead of receiving gifts from his friends, Colin “donated” his birthday to International Relief Teams, asking his friends to give money to victims of Hurricane Irma in Florida.
On Wednesday, September 20, Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico with wind speeds up to 150 mph. The resulting damage from the storm across the entire island was catastrophic, cutting off power and running water sources to most of the 3.4 million residents. Three weeks later, most people are still without power.
Last summer, the small town of Denham Springs, Louisiana outside Baton Rouge was one of the area hardest hit by a devastating flood. The storm, which gained little news coverage across the country, dropped up to 27 inches of rain in a 24-hour period and the swollen Amite River flooded an area 17 miles by 52 miles wide. The storm was considered a one in one-thousand year event.
The night of October 4, 2016 was the most frightening of little Mamande’s young life. Mamande, three-years-old, huddled inside her home in Les Cayes, Haiti all night with her mom and dad as the torrential winds and rain of Hurricane Matthew tore the roof of their home. The poor family couldn’t afford to rebuild their little house and had to relocate to another part of the city.
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