This month marks the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which has been labeled as single most catastrophic natural disaster and costliest hurricane in U.S. history. The unprecedented devastation and loss that was experienced across the Gulf Coast region was overwhelming. HOPE worldwide volunteers moved into action immediately and through the long-term recovery process, set a new precedent to how our organization responds to disasters.
Immediately following the storm, HOPE worldwide established “Operation Safe Place,” a program for children of families evacuated from their homes. Volunteers, primarily from the International Church of Christ, provided a safe place for children to come and play games, sing songs and create arts and crafts projects while their parents met with FEMA counselors for assistance. More than 480 children were served over nine months in sites throughout the Gulf Coast.
Leading up to the year anniversary of the storm, HOPE worldwide continued to assist with recovery efforts in and around New Orleans. From 2006 to 2009, teams of volunteers assisted with gutting homes and rebuilding efforts throughout St. Bernard’s Parish, one of the most devastated areas in Louisiana. In July 2006, more than 1,050 campus students from the ICMC (International Campus Ministry Conference) cleared lots in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. Other rebuilding projects included a partnership with the National Wildlife Federation to clean-up New Orleans City Park.
The experience gained through the Hurricane Katrina relief and recovery phases prepared HOPEworldwide for future U.S. hurricanes. In the fall of 2008, Hurricanes Gustav and Ike greatly impacted Louisiana and Texas. More than 35,000 volunteer hours were served in shelters and removing debris following these deadly storms.
Building on experience
In 2012, Hurricane Sandy became one of HOPE worldwide’s largest volunteer efforts since Hurricane Katrina as we deployed more than 2,200 volunteers in New Jersey and New York. Based on the success of Operation Safe Place, SPARK (Sandy Program in Arts Resiliency for Kids) Academy was launched in the Jersey Shore area after Hurricane Sandy. The program ran for more than a year and provided a healing caring environment to help restore normalcy to children impacted by Hurricane Sandy through Saturday and Summer programs featuring a fun, character-building curriculum of visual arts, environmental education, writing, performing arts and sports.
Since Hurricane Katrina, our volunteers and supporters have made it possible for HOPE worldwide to respond to 58 man-made and natural disasters around the world including building collapses, civil wars, earthquakes, fires, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, tornadoes, tropical storms and volcanic eruptions.
Preparing for the future: U.S. Disaster Corps
HOPE worldwide continues to grow and adapt in our response to disasters, as well as our commitment to helping people be prepared for future disasters. Our U.S. Disaster Services team actively communicates how to respond to disasters, including communication about this upcoming hurricane season. To learn more important tips about how to be prepared for this hurricane season, click here.