Here's the latest update from ground zero.
As I've stated before, my goal with our relief initiative here is to help facilitate all the great grass roots efforts that are already happening - to amplify the positive effects of local efforts - to build and coordinate a coalition of efforts that can all work side-by-side in helping to get Hurricane Sandy victims what they need.
I have been blown away by the performance of all the local groups out here that have stepped up and lead really effective efforts. On Tuesday we held a 'round table' meeting in Brooklyn - comprised mostly of friends I've made in the area over the many years of coming here.
It's pretty simple, I'm not from here, so would never pretend that I now what's best for a community that I don't have much experience in. I approach our work around the world the same way. It's always more appropriate to build a network of local residents that know the lay of the land, and the many local nuances. An army rarely loses a war when it takes place on its home turf!
Not only did all who had been invited to the meeting show up, but each brought 1-2 more invested players into the mix. In the end the group was 20+ incredibly motivated and intelligent people. The ideas they had, and their means to execute them, were exceptional. I basically wanted to offer W4W to them as a resource to help sustain ongoing efforts and facilitate their new ideas & initiatives.
Our approach is to continue to create a central command to funnel everything through, so our field operations can be streamlined, without duplication of efforts. Simply put, the core of our strategy is to look at all the efforts going on, find the holes in them, and leverage W4W to fill them. I left our meeting energized and inspired by the goodness of humanity … And after marinating on things for a bit I set a silent goal for W4W to try and facilitate at least one tangible and quantifiable action per day… for the following week.
Here's an example of a few of them…
As you know, there is a severe lack of gas in Long Beach and surrounding communities.
I understand that the damages are so widespread it's hard for the authorities and aid groups to assist everyone - but when we went through Long Beach and met up with our POC's (pillars of the local surf community) - Mike Nelson (Unsound Surf Shop), the Skudin brothers (Will & Cliff), and Brian Anthony - they had received little to ZERO help at all … plus the added stress of no Gasoline.
People don't understand that there is still NO electricity here - it's freezing at night and there is just so much to do that it's hard to determine where to begin. With each passing day, flooded homes that are not getting cleaned out get more over grown with mold – you can imagine - and borderline toxic. Some homes still have water in their basements and if that water freezes with the looming Nor-Easter's that are set to come, a whole new level of problems will arise for these already compromised homes.
In some cases people haven't bathed or washed their clothes in two weeks. And they can't even begin to think about demo-ing the damaged parts of their homes when they have no manpower, or tools to do so. These are just a few of the issues in one small portion of the disaster zones. Believe me, I’ve already gone through this in Haiti after the big earthquake, but never could have imagined such neglect here at home.
So in an effort to spark some momentum and get a quick win, we had a couple badass Jersey boys get six 25 gal gas cans filled down south, and smuggle supplies to ground zero, guerrilla style, in a pickup truck. Our goal is to get each crew (from Rockaway to Long Beach), that have been mobilizing and helping their communities, fully stocked with gas for their cars and generators - so they can continue to help their people.
Fairly simple and easy concept, yet semi-dangerous & sort of illegal - but Andrew Lewis and Andrew Gesler from NJ stepped up and got it done! These boys are champs!! This is the type of character that it takes to bulldog through challenges in any disaster situation - identifying the problem and fast-tracking appropriate solutions - but most importantly - under the radar and far away from typical bureaucratic gridlock that we have all come up against before in critical situations like these we’re facing now.
Basic, real time, problem solving - people helping people - and our contribution is gathering intel from ground zero areas, then getting all appropriate resources that come in, to those who need them most, NOW.
Another example of this was learning about a group of 100 (well organized) volunteers from Stoked Mentoring that were ready and willing to go out to Rockaway and help clear houses, but had no means of transportation to get there. So we rented two 50 person buses (thanks Daniel Stonier!) to get them there. Again, noticing what’s missing, finding the hole in the equation, and filling it. In my opinion, by coordinating efforts with targeted objectives, this is how we will start seeing real improvements.
After we got the sad info on how little the Long Beach area had been helped, we also, helped direct more volunteer groups from the city to go up and meet with our POC's there. The results were heart felt and inspiring. See the below email that came in after one of those groups helped a Long Beach neighborhood:
Dearest Waves for Water,
Can't thank you enough, and all your volunteers. My first cousin was totally drained and desperate, losing much of her house in Long Beach, NY with Sandy..... tired and exhausted after 10 days of wandering and helplessness...... your volunteers completely changed her life and brought a huge smile into her sore heart.... and were most helpful cleaning out her garage, etc....
Beautiful work, beautiful humanity... at it's best....
in deep Appreciation and gratitude,
On behalf of W4W I can say, we are happy to help - though I will NOT take the credit at all for these efforts. All we are doing is helping facilitate the crews that are stepping up to help their communities… Any appreciation for these efforts should go to them directly. People like Joy, Tyler, Greg, Nick, Chris, Brian, Julie, just to name a few… They are an exceptional crew and I'm happy to play even a small part in their efforts...
More to come…