For HDR Teams, 2016 was a year of baby steps, 2017 is the year of leaps and bounds!
29 Mar 2017
In January of 2016, Foundation Beyond Belief (FBB) reached the culmination of multiple years of planning and preparation by much of our staff and some volunteers. We had finally achieved something that no one had done before – the first deployment of a national Humanist Disaster Recovery (HDR) Team. Our South Carolina team worked for seven days in the city of Columbia, rebuilding homes after flooding caused by Hurricane Joaquin in late 2015. Under the guidance of our partner, St. Bernard Project, we trained, demolished the interior of a home, performed mold remediation, hung drywall, mudded, sanded, and primed homes in the area. The deployment, which took place from January 2 to January 9, 2016, was, in the words of Rebecca Vitsmun, the HDR Teams Development Coordinator, "An absolute success!"
Imagine a world where disaster survivors are never proselytized to, never have to lie about their religion or pretend to believe to get help, never have to listen to platitudes about how their loss was god's plan, never have to answer uncomfortable questions about religion while they are processing the trauma they have just experienced. This is the world that HDR teams is working toward. Our program is centered on the survivor – providing them with what they need to continue through the healing and recovery process without judgment, without regard to religious status, without engaging in religious debates, and without forcing our worldview on them during a time that they are vulnerable and must rely on others for help.
"It's hard to know if you're prepared," Rebecca says, talking about their inaugural deployment which included 18 volunteers who put in more than 400 volunteer hours, "But honestly, it went perfectly well." Rebecca brought a notebook with her on the deployment, expecting to fill it with all the things that went wrong and the things that she would do differently. Instead, when she got home, it had messages like, "bring ibuprofen" and "build in a break day." All in all, she couldn't have been more thrilled. You can check out a great video of Rebecca and the South Carolina Team here.
Rebecca and the rest of the HDR Teams staff have spent the last year building on the success of the South Carolina team and planning the next deployment, which will take place in Southern Louisiana in June of 2017. While the first year gave Rebecca the leadership training that she needed to fine tune the program, this year will lay the foundation to grow the program. FBB Executive Director Noelle George and Programs Director Conor Robinson will both train at this deployment, making us able to identify more possible leaders and to deploy larger groups. Larger groups open the door to identify more leaders, which enable them to continue to send more and larger deployments, which continue to grow the program, allowing us to help even more people recover after disasters.
Foundation Beyond Belief's HDR Teams mission is to provide recovering communities with trained humanist volunteers. HDR Teams is the first national humanist disaster recovery volunteer program. If you'd like more information on HDR Teams, including how you can join, please go to our website here. You can also read more about 2016's deployment and the incredible volunteers here or find their faq here.