“When I went out that morning, I never came back.” These are the words Bob Silva spoke to me as I interviewed him inside his newly constructed home. It was five years ago, on this very piece of land, Bob answered his neighbor’s call to help extinguish fires that slowly spread around his neighborhood. Little did he know, when he left his house that morning, it would be the last time he ever crossed the threshold of his front door.
As the year draws to a close, the grisly fingerprints of war are evident all over the world, leaving millions of people in unimaginably dire circumstances. Children are left dazed and covered in dust after bombings. Families are in sprawling refugee camps, where seeking sanctuary from violence often means encountering new hardships, like hunger and lack of clean water. Entire cities, once bustling with life, now look like ghost towns—their eerily silent streets littered with smoldering ruins.
On August 8, a deadly wildfire hit the island of Maui, leaving 97 people dead and at least 2,200 buildings damaged or destroyed, nearly all of them residential. The road to recovery will be long, but today International Relief Teams' focus is on helping the victims of this terrible tragedy by providing water, hygiene kits, and food to those who are suffering and in need.
In April of 2023, the community of Chinle, Arizona in the Navajo Nation, was ravaged by flooding, when intense rain and heavy runoff from the snowmelt caused a levee to break. Homes were barricaded with sand, sediment, and debris. Since April, the community and various volunteer groups have been working to clear the areas around the homes, but many families still need help.
On September 9, Morocco was hit with a magnitude 6.8 earthquake and then strong aftershocks, which is the deadliest earthquake to strike Morocco in more than six decades. International Relief Teams' immediately reached out to help the victims of this terrible disaster.
Around 40 percent of the Lebanese population is at risk of food insecurity. Malnourishment has become a significant concern, with one in three children suffering from stunted growth. International Relief Teams partnered with a local grassroots organization and is supporting their efforts to grow vegetables locally, utilizing a hydroponic garden.
In January 2023, with the invaluable support of the USANA Foundation, International Relief Teams launched a pilot program to distribute Garden Towers in San Quintin, Baja California, Mexico. Garden Towers are simple solutions that provide sustainable, nutritious food, especially for people with limited access to land and water.
When she was eight years old, a disabled little girl named Rosa arrived at Kids Kingdom orphanage in Ensenada, Mexico. She rarely spoke, she never smiled, and she could barely open her eyes.
Riley is a second-year Master’s of International Affairs student at UC San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy, with a regional focus in Latin America. This internship is her first foray into nonprofit work. In her free time, Riley likes to read, eat at restaurants, and hang out with her cat.
Giovanna is an intern from the University of California, SanDiego: School of Global Policy and Strategy who focuses on international human rights and development. She’s excited to work in international development and work towards the advancement of human rights and providing solutions to pressing issues. Giovanna intends to pursue law and practice civil rights and international human rights.
In August 2022, Eulises and Karina lost their home and all their belongings in an uncontrollable fire. The parents of six were devastated. “It is not easy to lose everything and start all over again when we are a big family,” they stated, remembering the fateful day.
This is a happy update on Angie's story as she celebrates her new home dedication with volunteers and community members.
Young humanitarians Emma (6) and sister Amelia (8), wanted to draw attention to the plight of children and families in Ukraine after watching news reports about the conflict when it began.
In February, we told you about our trip to San Quintin, Mexico, to teach the local families about building waterless bathroom facilities.
In celebration of the wonderful work that they do every single week, International Relief Teams hosted a Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon for the dedicated volunteers of our Feeding San Diego Kids program.
International Relief Teams volunteers are the backbone of our organization. Every project celebrates the dedication and effort our volunteers have given to the organization and to those they serve.
An unprecedented drought is putting millions of people at risk of starvation across the Horn of Africa.
Essential medicines and medical supplies have been shipped to hospitals in Lebanon.
Thanks to our generous donors, International Relief Teams supported an orphanage in Kherson—a city south of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv—while it was under Russian control, out of the reach of international organizations.
Emergency lighting and other basic supplies are shipped to war-torn Syria after multiple earthquakes.
Emergency food was shipped to Sri Lanka children during economic crisis through our partner, Community Concern Sri Lanka.
With the help of our donors, International Relief Teams was able to rush urgently needed supplies to assist families affected by the Turkey-Syria earthquakes.
Emergency supplies, water and food are rushed after massive earthquakes hit Turkey near Syrian border.
International Relief Teams' volunteers rally to build a home for a struggling Tijuana family.
International Relief Teams’ CEO visited students in San Quintin, Mexico to present water-less toilets based on accessible materials that can be found in their region.
Since 2019, International Relief Teams has been working with partners to provide hospitals with medicines and supplies for those affected by the civil war.
Thanks to our donors and volunteers, another home is built for a deserving family in Tijuana.
Our volunteers help rebuild homes for victims of the Paradise, California fires.
A success story for one Army veteran's young family due to our Feeding San Diego Kid’s program.
International Relief Teams and their partners are focused on procuring medicines and medical supplies in smart ways in order to help more people in Niger.
San Diego firm Sillman Architecture & Design joins International Relief Teams to build a home for a deserving Tijuana family.
Surviving amidst trauma and destruction.
The Rohingya, the Forgotten Refugee Crisis
Yemen people face displacement, poor health, and severe food insecurity.
The American Institute of Graphic Arts hosts events for Ukraine Crisis and International Relief Teams.
International Relief Teams deployed volunteers from across the United States to Paradise and Happy Camp, California to aid in the building of four homes.
On October 15, 2022, we honored International Relief Teams' founder, Barry La Forgia while raising over $300,000 for Medicines for Children program.
International Relief Teams is rebuilding homes for families recovering from wildfire disasters at two sites in Northern California.
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.
"Everything was that roof." After Hurricane Dorian caused massive devastation and destruction in the Bahamas, one family shares their story of hope.
“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.
“I only had soup and old tortillas at home and was always hungry,” said seven-year-old Hian when he arrived at Kids Kingdom orphanage in Ensenada, Mexico.
Bradley Carpiuc is 13 years old and raised more than $3,000 for COVID-19 relief.
Sweet little Chuy was only six years old when his mother tied him up with rope. Then she beat him with a paddle and a hose. At nine years old, Chuy’s mother abandoned him and he had no other choice but to live with his abusive, alcoholic stepfather.
Children injured in air strikes in Syria survive thanks to donated medicines
• Alejandra was abandoned as a child and lived in poverty. • When she first came to Kids Kingdom orphanage she never smiled. • Now she never stops smiling.
After three years of suffering, a little Honduran boy gets the surgery he needs to recover
Cyclone Idai completely demolished their home and all of their belongings, including the little food they had managed to store up. The floodwaters from the storm also destroyed their farm...
Do you remember last year when we told you about Nellie Santiago and her family? Category 5 Hurricane Maria destroyed their home and everything they owned back in 2017 when the entire island of Puerto Rico was hit by the massive storm. Then, a few months ago, everything changed for the Santiagos! Thanks to you and the gift you gave to support Hurricane Maria Victims, IRT hired local labor and provided construction materials so that the Santiagos, and 30 other families in their village of Villa Esparanza, could have their homes rebuilt.
A young girl from a poor family in Mexico gets her first pair of eyeglasses.
Tragically, two children fall to their death while waiting for flood waters to recede.
In his own words, Carlos tells his story
A young mother in Somalia escapes war and natural disaster with her four children.
John is not an ordinary volunteer. Not only has he been on 43 teams with IRT in the last four years, he has become the key figure of IRT’s New Homes, New Beginnings program building homes for poor families.
A class of eight graders take action after learning of the devastation caused by recent disasters
“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.”
Maria Mendoza made $30 a week. She worked 14-hour days to help feed her husband, Sergio, and their five children. They made the difficult decision to leave their relatives and the place they called home in search of something better. Maria and Sergio moved their family to Tijuana, close to the border with the USA, where they heard they could find jobs that might pay higher wages.
Paola is 12 years old and from a very poor family. She never asks her parents for anything, even when she needed glasses and started failing in school. Read how IRT helped change her life.
I know it’s hard to imagine what life is like in a place so far away. So, let me introduce you to one person who lives there. Her name is Zeinabou. She is 24 years old and a mother of two young children. Read her story.
Kelly Hardiman has cared for others her entire life. It’s what she does best.
My name is Karen Millán. I'm 21 years old now, but I arrived at Kids Kingdom orphanage in Ensenada, Mexico when I was just four years old. Will you take a moment to read my story? It will only take a few minutes. I want to show you how much my life has changed since I was a little girl.
“We lived in Ensenada in a one room house,” she recalled. “We hardly ever had food and we had to look in our neighbor’s trash cans for food."
“The home was completely destroyed. Everything blew away,” said Nellie Santiago. “Our lives have changed forever. Nothing is the same.”
Evelyn takes care of people. It’s what she does best. She has traveled to Central and South America, Asia, and Africa to treat surgical patients who otherwise would not have access to life-transforming procedures. Evelyn changes lives.
You first met Elena two years ago at Fay Elementary School with her three daughters: Maria, Michele, and Marcela. “My M&Ms,” she called them. They were struggling to get by, dependent on Elena’s husband’s income as a house painter to feed the girls. “Every day was a struggle,” said Elena.
“When we lived in the old house, we did not have a door. We didn’t have much, but I was so afraid everything would get stolen if we left,” said Mari. “Now, we have a door with a lock. This little lock has given me my freedom. I am able to leave the house without worry.”
Raul and his sister were alone, poor, and helpless living in Mexico. Then, you helped give them a new, happy home!
Ronaldo, 17, has been silently suffering for the last 10 years. He lives in Honduras in one of the most dangerous cities in the world, San Pedro Sula. It’s a very poor city in a poor country where medical resources are available, but too expensive for the average person.
Just two months ago, their mother left them without any notice. They came home from school one day and she was gone. They don’t know where she is or if she is ever coming back...
We are proud to announce that, for the fifteenth year in a row, International Relief Teams has received the highest possible rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest charity evaluator.
Oswaldo says thank you! Oswaldo is just six years old. He loves school, but because he had trouble seeing the blackboard he returned home every day completely exhausted with a pounding headache and bloodshot eyes.
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.
Shiomara Medina arrived at Kids Kingdom in May 2009 at age eight. This is her story. "My name is Shiomara, and I am 16 years old. I have a sister named Cassandra, age 18, and I had another sister named Isis, but she passed away. I was born in Nayarit, Mexico, but when I was two years old my mom moved us to Ensenada. We lived in a small house that we built with wood and scraps. My mom cleaned houses to earn a living, but it wasn’t a steady job. Because of our low-income, I wasn’t able to attend school."
Edwig, Adriana, and their family were living in a small shack built by scrap wood, in the community of Fuentes del Valle, in Tijuana. Their shack had a dusty blue rug to cover the dirt floor, and a partial roof made out of wood. During rainy nights Edwig would wake up with water dripping on their bed. Things dramatically changed for them when a group of 25 IRT volunteers traveled to Tijuana in February, to build a 16’ x 20’ home for them.
Maria is a mother of three kids, Ellery, 12, Christian, 10, and Sandi, 9. Christian and Sandi go to Carver Elementary, one of four schools participating in our Feeding San Diego’s Kids Program. Her husband Jesus, is a gardener and the sole financial provider for the family of five. Unfortunately, her husband’s income sometimes is not enough to pay for everything they need. After paying rent, electricity, gas, and medicine, “we sometimes have very little money left to buy food.”
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.
Meregilda hadn’t planned on getting eyeglasses. She was just going about her daily business of making and delivering tortillas, when she heard from a friend about the IRT eyeglass clinic. She knew her eyes were getting worse, but like most rural Guatemalans, she had resigned herself to her situation thinking nothing could be done.
Gabi a single mother of three, left Chiapas, one of the poorest states in Mexico, in search for a better life in Tijuana, Baja California.
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.
Baby Jordi Chirino is only five months old but he has been fighting for his life every day since his birth. His parents faced significant economic struggles when his mother was pregnant with him.
What is #GIVINGTUESDAY? This month, we have a day for giving thanks. We also have two for getting deals- Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But, did you know we also have a day for giving back? It’s called Giving Tuesday. On Tuesday, November 28, 2017, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to promote generosity.
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.
Yansi is a happy four-year-old girl living in a remote region of Guatemala. Looking at her now, you would never know she was very sick and close to death the first year of her life.
Meet the Alonso family. They live in Mescales, a small, rural community in the impoverished country of Honduras. They experience the daily struggles of living in poverty just like every other family in their town, but they face an extra challenge. The matriarch of the family, Maria Alba, and five of her six children have all been diagnosed with diabetes.
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.
Once again, International Relief Teams has received four stars, the highest possible rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest charity evaluator, for sound fiscal management and a proven commitment to accountability and transparency.
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.
When Eleazar Santiago’s (above, right) parents abandoned him and his six younger siblings when he was just a teenager, he thought his life was over. As the oldest, he was now responsible for six little lives and he did not know how he would raise them while still attending high school.
Nathaly is just six years old but has already experienced immense suffering in her short life. She lives with her mom, dad, and little sister in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, a city that has endured decades of gang violence, endemic poverty, and has one of the highest murder rates in the world. Not only has Nathaly faced the challenges of growing up in a dangerous place, but a chronic health condition and inability to access care have set her back. Infected tonsils and adenoids have caused her a lot of pain and difficulty breathing for the last two years.
Nine months ago, Perla and her husband Jose and their two daughters, Selena (16) and Dana (10), left their home in the Sonoran Desert of Mexico, where they had desperately tried and failed to earn enough money to create a stable life for their family. They arrived in Fuentes del Valle, a dry, dusty and desolate border community in Tijuana, where 150 families, including Perla’s mother, live in makeshift shelters without running water or electricity. Despite the harsh conditions, Perla and Jose felt they were better off in this community than where they had come from.
Johanna is a bright-eyed six-year-old from a rural town in Honduras. She is full of energy, but her health has kept her from enjoying many normal activities of girls her age. For the past two years, Johanna suffered from chronic sore throats and fevers. She had difficulty breathing and missed school for weeks at a time. She loved learning math and Spanish in school, but was starting to fall behind.
Delphina Gregorio Diego, 71 years old, woke up on the morning of May 20 with a sparkle of hope to finally find a solution to a problem that was plaguing her for years, her eyesight. She heard from her neighbors that International Relief Teams (IRT), an organization from north of the border, was coming to perform eyesight screenings, a service she desperately needed.
Delfino, 82, woke up to a cold drop of rain on his eyebrow and realized that it was raining. He immediately woke up his wife, Susanna, and ten-year-old step-daughter, Alondra, to help pour soft sand on the entrance of their home, a tiny one-room shelter with dirt floors and a tarp roof.