Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Lowell doctor's return visit to Haiti an eye-opener - Lowell Sun Online

Lowell doctor's return visit to Haiti an eye-opener - Lowell Sun Online:

"I learned a lot of technique from him and passed on a lot of knowledge to him," Johnson said. "Dr. Alexander would be a valuable contribution to Lowell, but I would not want to contribute to the Haitian brain drain. They need him."

Johnson said he was stunned by the lack of progress he observed between his first and second trips, a year apart.

"The Presidential Palace is still pancaked," he said. "People are still living in tent cities. The Anglican Cathedral is still destroyed.

"Billions of dollars came into the country, but there is no visible significant construction going on," he said.

This is a big reason why we are collecting school supplies and construction tools. Money can be stolen and wasted, but it is much harder to make off with a bunch of hammers, pens, or pencils.

Monday, September 19, 2011

BR in the News all over the place! wow.!

From the BV on Friday:

Bona’s responds to Catskills’ call - Features - The Bona Venture:

"BonaResponds volunteers were inundated with a desire to help the people of the Catskills region after Hurricane Irene's devastation, and the group stepped up to help the suffering community.

Upward of 30 students and volunteers came together in Marga-retville, N.Y. to help with the restoration and revitalization of the city. Jessica Misiaszek, a senior journalism and mass communication major, was among the volunteers.

"I have never experienced a tornado (or) hurricane disaster, so when I see other places undergo these disasters, I want to help," Misiaszek wrote in an email. "I would rather spend my time helping others that need it, than doing nothing and worrying about my own life."

and later in the same article:
"Residents were extremely gracious and appreciative of St. Bonaventure's outreach. The two-day trip allowed students to get a true sense of the importance of helping communities in need.
"The people of the Catskills thanked our group several times for our efforts," [Alexandra] Perl wrote. "BonaResponds is a phenomenal organization dedicated to providing comfort, stability and emotional support to victims of tragedy."

On Saturday we were in the Olean Times Herald:

"For many college students, summer is a time to relax, travel, work, or catch up with friends and family.

For a number of dedicated St. Bonaventure University students with the BonaResponds group, this summer was anything but relaxing as they helped with several natural disasters around the country"

We were also in on Sunday but I can not find a link.

And on Sunday James Torres was on the front page of the Elmire StarGazette:
Flood cleanup in the Valley | stargazette.com | Elmira Flood of 2011 | Star-Gazette: JASON WHONG / STAFF PHOTO
James Torres, 21, of Long Island, an English major at St. Bonaventure University and volunteer for BonaResponds, dumps insulation material in a pile Saturday in front of the home of Sue Green on Maple Street in Athens.

Another picture from inside the paper is here. (shows Larry and James)


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Video of the destruction in area we are working


Nervous? Yeah me too. Come volunteer anyway

I get nervous before every trip. Some more so than others. This one is worse than almost any I can remember (at least since the last time I took the group to New Orleans on the day off--still nervous about that one 4 years later, but that is another story).

"Nervous about what?" you say. Everything I say: from someone getting injured to being too poorly organized, from there being too much work to there being too little; from not getting enough done and being in over our heads (literally sometimes!), to not living up to expectations (my own or worse those we have come to help.)

Every trip is like this to varying degrees. I remember being scared going into Biloxi after Katrina on our first trip; scared I would not be able to do anything to help. Scared I was too weak, too inexperienced in disaster response volunteering. Scared I would embarrass myself or those with me.

On subsequent trips to the Gulf I worried I picked the wrong place ('who in the world is Randy?' 'What is Randy's Rangers?', 'could we do more elsewhere?'), whether we could cut the trees they wanted removed, whether we would be as good at putting drywall up as taking it down. 9 trips to the Gulf and was afraid at the start of every one.

I remember vividly when cleaning up a flood in Gowanda NY worrying whether we would be able to satisfy the town leaders who had called references on us before agreeing to allow us in. In Iowa the worry was whether the drive was too long for the amount of work we could accomplish. In Springfield Massachusetts whether we would be able to make an impact on our first short trip after being told repeatedly they had volunteers and had it covered. In Haiti whether I would be able to do any good, and whether I would let down those I so wanted to impress and win over or whether the different culture and environment would be too much. In Tuscaloosa, Alabama whether I would live up to the expectations of my "finance friends" several of whom who wanted answers to simple questions that I had no idea of (like a few days before the trip: "how many are coming"..lol).

But in most of those we had at least the veil of the towns people not knowing of us in advance. If we failed it would have been that "group of Yankees", "lazy Americans", "some college volunteers", or "those New Yorkers". That veil is pierced here. "The Valley" is too close to Bonaventure. Caitlin's parents, Erin's Mom and Dad, my former students, too many alums, to close to home. We are known, our record is known, and that raises expectations; we can't let them down. That makes me nervous.

Indeed in many ways I feel I personally have already let them down: we have a small turn out. Too few volunteers. Why? Who knows, but I know I attribute it to poor marketing by me. While I am not sure if it is too little marketing (potential volunteers did not know the enormity of the destruction) or too much (and like the boy who cried wolf, my cries fall on deaf ears), it was my fault. I let them down. People will not get back into their houses because I failed them.

Moreover, while every single person we help is important, it can be easier to work on a home of someone you do not know. Why? Because you are tearing apart the house and it is uncomfortable in the best of times. But if you do not know the family well, you have a mental shelter, however fragile, to retreat to--it is someone's else and will likely never see that person again.

But this time is different. Our first house tomorrow will be on a house of a current SBU student who is with us on this trip. Yes you read that correctly. I had no idea when we chose the locale, but a volunteer who traveled here with us will be working on his own home. I am sure it will be stressful for him and his family. Even more than on every other home I have worked on, I hope we can help. I hope we can help enough to make a real difference.

I hope we live up to the expectations of city officials who have waived some driving restrictions for us so that we can get to more homes tomorrow. How I am afraid I will have to say no to many of those who have asked our help. Not because I want to, but simply because we are limited by a lack of volunteers or by my poor organization that leads to inefficiencies.

I am writing this not to sound like a bumbling coward, but to let those people who are afraid to volunteer, know that being afraid is not a good excuse. For if it were, nearly every BonaResponds project would never have gotten off the ground, and untold thousands of people would be a bit worse off right now.

So face your fears, come out and volunteer. You can do it. You are not too old, too young,too fat, or too skinny. Not too busy or too inexperienced. You will not embarrass yourself, you will not mess things up. I have those covered for you. Come and help. You will be glad you did, but you know who will be even more glad you came to help? The people you helped.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Flood Debris Pickup - WETM 18 Online

Flood Debris Pickup - WETM 18 Online:

" The streets of Athens Borough were shutdown as debris crews picked up all furniture, appliances or damaged goods on sidewalks.

The streets are filled with neighbor’s cherished goods."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

This weekend! Flood response, Buffalo, and local activities. We really need volunteers! (and drivers)

Never satisfied with just "busy" BonaResponds has opted to make a huge impact this weekend on multiple fronts in multiple areas. So here goes:

  1. Flood relief--as you know, thousands of homes were flooded from the one-two punch of Irene and Lee.  We are going back to help this weekend.  After much deliberation, we decided to go to Athens PA.  This will allow us to help in Owego, Athens, Sayre, and Towanda.  We will be staying in the local school. (This was made possible by Erin Sullivan who is a former student of mine at SBU).  Watch the video:

Sign up for the trip here.

If you can drive, we'd love it. If you bring 4 people and drive, we will pay your gas. It is just over 2 hours from SBU as well as Rochester. It is about 50 minutes from Binghamton. (which was our second choice to go to. But from reports of people on the ground, Binghamton had more volunteers already, so we opted to take the road less traveled).

Bring sleeping bags, clothes you don't mind getting dirty, a good attitude and a willingness to help others!. I will give a more complete list in a subsequent blog entry.

2. Buffalo. Prior to the floods we had a day planned for Buffalo. While we have scaled it back dramatically, there are two jobs that we'd really like to still do. The Bob Lanier Center has had a few recent break-ins and vandalism. They have asked us to paint graffiti and help restore the community center. This is a SATURDAY only job.

Also in Buffalo there is a ramp project that is pretty important. It is for a girl who lives at Baker Victory Services but can not go home to see here mom anymore since there is no ramp. It is a job that is screaming to be done. I realize many of you are tired of ramps, but please remember that to the person getting the ramp, it is the most important thing you can do and they are appreciative. This is from Sabrina, the person who contacted me about the job last month:
".my resident has profound intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, and a trachea. The only thing she has to look forward to is visiting her mother. Unfortunately, mom's house is not wheelchair accessible, and she is unable to afford a ramp (had a stroke shortly after giving birth). This will change a family's life for a very long time."
Sabrina has several skilled people lined up to help, but we need a leader there to coordinate the work (and get lumber etc). 

3.   In Olean, Future pro-bowler Jen Thomas will be heading a small team on Saturday to help the SPCA with their fund raiser (and likely walk some dogs too ;) )

Ok, hang on...going to be an awesome ride! You will be making a huge impact no matter where you choose.  So come on out and help!

Multiple fronts of attack this weekend. If you want to volunteer, we have a job for you!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Post-Irene Mold Remediation Resources | Living the Dream

Post-Irene Mold Remediation Resources | Living the Dream:

For those who have been flooded out, here is a report on how to deal with mold. Be sure to read it. It is a study done by friend of mine on homes we helped work on in Mississippi. (the Hope VI homes for those of you on the trips)

"For a presentation on the Hope VI experiment, a comprehensive test of the efficacy of different methods of mold removal in post-Katrina Coastal Mississippi conducted in 2006, please click here.

For complete instructions on the 4-step low cost process that Hands On Gulf Coast used with high success, please click here."


SHORT version:

Gut, use wire brushes to remove visible (and invisible) spores (griding), vacuum, wipe down, prime.

I will say it can be tedious work, but this study shows it works much better than bleach alone.

Scaping mold

Friday, September 09, 2011

Flood update

Having spoken to several people on the ground, it appears the water is still too high in many places.  IF it were closer to here or if we had no other jobs, I think it would be worth the risk of no work, but given these practical problems, we will hold off until next weekend to go to the flooded regions (Binghamton and/or Pratville and/or Northern PA).

I feel I am letting the flood victims down, but am confident it is the decision that makes the most sense given we have 60 local volunteers coming tomorrow from Terry Moran's class and have several jobs to do locally. 

THAT SAID, and I can not stress it enough, we will not turn our back on the flood victims.  The extra time will give us the opportunity for a larger response.  It is my guess that some will be there next weekend and it is looking more and more likely to the the location of our fall break trip as well. 

Here is probably the best coverage of much of this round of flooding that I have seen:
from the Sacramento Bee.


Thursday, September 08, 2011

More flooding :( Stay tuned.

Lots of reports of new flooding to East.   BonaResponds has several local events planned, BUT are considering a response.  It is currently raining there (listening to radio now).  10,000 in Binghamton area are under evacuation orders and many roads are again closed. 

  Several SBU alumni have been in contact as well.  We have several local jobs planned this weekend, so it may be impossible to take many people, but we are exploring possibilities of teaming with other groups to help.  Stay tuned. 
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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Families Feel Sharp Edge of State Budget Cuts - NYTimes.com

“We’re O.K. unless something — anything at all — goes wrong,” said Rachel Haifley,Families Feel Sharp Edge of State Budget Cuts - NYTimes.com:
"Whatever the motive, such policy changes come as the downturn has left a growing number of low-income families in worse financial trouble.

The percentage of children living in poverty rose during the last decade, particularly once the recession hit and unemployment soared.

By 2009, about 2.4 million more children’s families lived below the poverty line than in 2000, an increase of 18 percent, according to a recent analysis of Census Bureau data"

What sums it up is:

“We’re O.K. unless something — anything at all — goes wrong,” said Rachel Haifley,

BonaResponds helps with those who fall through the "ever widening cracks": The person who makes too little to afford home repairs, but too much to get it done by some state program. Or after a disaster when many things go wrong. By being small and nimble we can help these people. We do help these people.

BTW I am not saying the cracks should not be there as it may be more efficient to have cracks than bloated bureaucracies intended to catch every crack, but I am saying that those who slip through the cracks need help. And we can do that. Be it with a wheelchair ramp for a veteran who somehow has been turned down by the VA, or school supplies for the children whose parents have lost their job.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Margaretville Update

Great day!  11+ jobs done and very moving meeting to end the day.

Finished 11 jobs in the Margaretvill/Ashville area.  Mainly mudding out basements/first floors.

We did have some organizational problems at the start but they worked themselves out very quickly and the day went exceedingly well. 

  • Some of today's events:
  • Mudding out 4 home basements
  • Jacking up a  porch
  • Sweeping out a first floor (it had been gutted but thin layer of mud remained)
  • Removing furniture and other items from first floor, removing carpets, and storing items to allow house to be gutted and heaved floors to be replaced.
  • Counseling several residents on "next step" (typically bleach and ventilate to allow wood to dry)
  • Removing appliances and furniture from several apartments (to give you an idea of # of appliances, they filled 3 medium sized dumpsters, helping tenants salvage any of their belongings before their apartments were to be gutted
  • Mudding the basement of a local theater.  (Note, this was a HUGE job--at least 25 volunteers...may never have seen a team work so hard for 2 straight hours.  GREAT work VOLS!!)
  • Removing a tree trunk that was potentially blocking stream under bridge.
  • several volunteers worked in food bank in Margaretville.
  • At night, packed 2+ pallets of medicine for shipment to Eithiopia with Citihope.
We also had a great meeting to wrap up the day.  In addition our volunteers, we had truly inspitational talks by the Reverend Paul Moore, his sone Paul both of Citihope, and Tom Harvey of The Global Environment and Technology Foundation.  Honored to be able to work with them all.  Not sure what else to say, but truly inspirational people doing great things all around the globe.  I hope that BonaResponds will be able to help them in the future.

Tomorrow we will be working in Arkville, Margaretville, and making our first trip into Fleishman. 

Lest you think today was all work, I have to add I heard several times that this was the most fun BonaResponds day that even expereinced volunteers had ever been on.  Oh, and Jive and I dove into a large mud pile as if it were a slip and slide (was already so muddy it added virtually zero to our mud total). Look for pictures soon!