Our programs director Wendy Webber is one of millions struggling through the US winter weather crisis. Earlier today, we asked Wendy for a brief quote about her thoughts on the emergency. She responded:
“I tried to write a pithy quote. That didn’t happen. I tried to write a shorter quote of what this week has been like, but it all felt very…wrong. The fact of the matter is, I have been very lucky. They way I’ve been trying to help is to get FBB info about what’s happening here so you can act. So, I finally decided to just write what my experience has been.”
I have been very lucky this week. I did not to experience an outage, but I did experience long rolling blackouts for over three days. Every time the power came on I would hurry to try to cook (sometimes successfully managing a hot meal, sometimes not), heat water for tea, plug in my devices, Google local weather and news, and check on friends and family. I’d also try to check in with FBB staff who were not in the heart of this emergency to give them the what information and ideas I had in my head to help coordinate a response. We know that local response is the most effective response, and I knew we have strong BBN teams in some of the very places where there is the most need. I knew that they would be dealing with the emergency themselves and getting in touch could be difficult.
I also knew they what BBN teams were working on or — if they couldn’t work yet — what they were planning. What they could do in their community. I didn’t realize how widespread this event was since I was so focused on how my own community and neighborhood was doing strictly from a place of what do I need to know and do, until I got a good chunk of power on Thursday.
I have not been at the heart of an emergency since I started working on coordinating disaster responses at FBB. I am used to looking for on the ground information as an outsider during an event. So I knew where to look on Twitter and what government agencies to seek out information quickly when I had power. But I didn’t have time to look at the big picture.
During the times I didn’t have power I didn’t have much I could do other than do what I could to try to keep warm and wonder what was going on in the rest of the state. All I could do was tell other FBB staff members where to look — ask this person, see what this org or BBN team is saying. I kept saying to folks at FBB, “you know what is happening better than me.”
We may be able to step back from the situation more easily, but we treat our local partners as the experts on their communities’ needs. That’s why reports from folks like Wendy are critical. We’re funding a locally-led response to the crisis. That means contributions are going straight to service teams in our Beyond Belief Network. These teams in turn communicate with the people they serve — vulnerable people at the heart of the crisis — to assess their exact needs.
As of the writing of this post, our Winter Weather Disaster Relief fundraiser has raised $9,580 from everyday humanists like you. Some of this money just bought folks a week’s worth of hotel rooms as well as sleeping bags and other cold weather gear.
Weather will be getting better in Texas in the coming days. But people are still experiencing food and water shortages and have lost many of their belongings. Freezing weather will continue to affect the rest of the country, so we’re working with teams in other states as well.
Words can’t express our admiration of the staff and volunteers on the ground. Despite their own hardships, these folks are trudging forward to make sure people in their communities are cared for. That’s the essence of Humanism At Work.