I returned to All Hands Volunteers after working in Bogalusa, LA as an AmeriCorps NCCC member during the 2016 flood response. I had been mucking and gutting homes, as well as performing sanitations, when I was offered the opportunity to learn how to conduct assessments. This was the first time I was able to interact closely with homeowners.
One morning, we received a call about a flooded mobile-home park, where an elderly couple hadn’t received any help. We drove to where the couple lived and found their home had been flooded with at least 4 feet of water. The husband was suffering from severe health issues and when the door was opened, the stench of mold was overwhelming. They didn’t have electricity, running water or an alternative place to live; this was at least 2 months after the flooding had happened.
Due to health issues, the husband was unemployed and required a day-nurse. The nurse warned the couple that if they continued living in their house another month, he wouldn’t make it through the summer.
This really struck me. I could see how easily that could have been one of my loved ones. It showed me how easily people fall through the cracks and ignited a fire within me to create change.
I was truly inspired by Brandon, one of the staff members. Although All Hands Volunteers couldn’t do anything to save the mobile home, Brandon made phone calls to anybody that could potentially help. He was determined to find a solution and by the following day had identified a new trailer for the couple.
This was a truly moving moment for me. I was so desperate to help those people and to see how hard Brandon worked to try find a solution, made me realize there is always something we can do to help.
Having had this realization, we visited an elderly woman who hadn’t received any assistance. As soon as we entered the home we could see and smell mold. The owner told us there was one room which was particularly bad and when she opened the door there, mold hung from the ceiling. She didn’t know how bad her living conditions were and the effects this mold could have on her health. As we explained the dangers of her living there and what we could do to help, she immediately started crying, saying she wouldn’t be able to pay us.
That moment gave me chills because she was so distraught thinking she had to give something to us; being able to tell her that we didn’t want any of her money and just wanted to help her was such a humbling experience. It reinforced why I want to continue this work.