Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Turning Tragedy into Triumph!

Five years after one of the most destructive natural disasters in U.S. history, Hurricane Katrina still looms large in the hearts…and minds…of the Gulf Coast residents. Everyone can certainly remember the gut-wrenching images of New Orleans being submerged under water as people who did not, or could not, evacuate struggle to survive – but the storm’s fury extended far beyond New Orleans. Many of Louisiana’s parishes were hit hard, as was as many beach front towns in Mississippi, and so too was Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Over 1,800 people lost their lives – with 1,577 deaths in Louisiana alone – during the storm and its aftermath, and the estimated total property damage was over $81 billion. In December 2005, summarizing Hurricane Katrina in their Tropical Cycle Report, Richard D. Knabb, Jamie R. Rhome, and Daniel P. Brown said the following:

Hurricane Katrina
“The extent, magnitude, and impacts of the damage caused by Katrina are staggering and are well beyond the scope of this report to fully describe. Thousands of homes and businesses throughout entire neighborhoods in the New Orleans metropolitan area were destroyed by flood. Strong winds also caused damage in the New Orleans area, including downtown where windows in some high rise buildings were blown out and the roof of the Louisiana Superdome was partially peeled away. The storm surge of Katrina struck the Mississippi coastline with such ferocity that entire coastal communities were obliterated, some left with little more than the foundations upon which homes, businesses, government facilities, and other historical buildings once stood.”

As if the storm wasn’t bad enough, Gulf Coast residents – especially in New Orleans parish – anguished because the federal government was slow to respond and state and local governments were completely overwhelmed. The support structure that had existing, including hundreds of community-based nonprofit organizations, was turned upside-down. In other words, there was little to no support structure in place to help the literally thousands of residents who needed to be linked to supports and services. This included pregnant mothers needing prenatal care, wounded Veterans needing therapy, people living with HIV/AIDS needing life-saving medications, and patients with kidney failure needing dialysis, just to name a few.

Despite the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina…notwithstanding the hundreds of lives lost…Americans responded just as they always do during times of tragedy. Sure, millions of dollars were donated to various charities and causes, but the heroic commitment of thousands of people who volunteered their time, energy and manpower was truly inspiring; countless non-cash items were also donated, including durable medical equipment, food and water, clothing, mattresses, medical supplies and the list goes on and on.

One of the biggest obstacles at the time was trying to coordinate everything during the storm’s aftermath – including linking the people who needed assistance to the appropriate resources. The American Red Cross, America's Second Harvest, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, Catholic Charities, Service International, Southern Baptist Convention and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were among some of the national organization leading the recovery efforts in the Gulf Coast region…and they did an amazing job!

But what if there was something that could have helped the recovery efforts five years ago by banding together community resources using technology to improve outcomes? That is exactly the concept that has fueled the WE Movement and its national effort “bringing together all of the community resources from across the Nation on one, web-based platform.” WE’s innovative HELP4U – an interactive web-based platform that connects people to valuable life services – is designed to take what worked during Katrina’s recovery efforts, and learn from what didn’t work.

We have joined, will you? Learn more at http://www.wemovement.org/.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

WE have joined, will you?

Together, WE can make a meaningful difference in American's communities.

In 2009, there were 63.4 million Americans who volunteered in their community, working an estimated 8.1 billion hours of service valued at nearly $169 billion, that according to the Corporation for National & Community Service.1 Yet, these numbers come as no surprise to the WE Movement because volunteerism and corporate social responsibility are embedded into the fabric of the American psyche.

The WE motto, "Offer What You Can. WE Will Do the Rest." Making a Difference By Coordinating Community Resources Across the Nation, is the mission of the WE Movement and its bottom-line commitment to helping others. After all, whether it is a physician assistant volunteering at a community health clinic or a retired school teacher tutoring at-risk youth at the local YMCA, collectively “we” have so many opportunities to make a meaningful difference in the lives of people from all walks of life.

The WE Movement is embarking on a national campaign to raise awareness, change attitudes, increase access to supports and services and improve local communities…one person at a time. The WE Movement has pledged to sustain a vigorous campaign to gather as many recipients and providers it can in order to broaden the networking effort of bringing these Providers and Recipients—"those that have" and matching "those who do not"—together for the purpose of making a difference through coordinating community resources.

Said Laura Bryna, host and international recording artist about the WE Movement: “The WE Movement is a wonderful organization that brings people together to help those less fortunate. Through this movement, pretty much any one can offer help to those who need it. I'm excited to be a part of this effort because it focuses on giving, one of my favorite things to do. Being a part of WE allows us to reach so many people on all levels of need...not just financial, but in all aspects of life.

Last year, President Barack Obama called on all Americans to “participate in our nation’s recovery and renewal by serving in our communities…America’s new foundation will be built one community at a time – and it starts with you.” The WE Movement agrees!

As demonstrated in the graph2 below, community involvement by volunteers spans numerous demographics; “we” is comprised of men and women, as well as younger generations and older adults over age 65. But our collective volunteerism is only part of the solution to addressing the many ills facing our society. It involves a national coordinated effort – much like the United We Serve initiative launched by the President – to make the meaningful difference. The WE Campaign is doing its part by offering its community-based outreach effort that functions through an online "search and match" networking program (HELP4U) that coordinates benefits offered by “those that have"—individuals or companies with products, goods and services they wish to donate gratis—to “those who do not"—those less fortunate, as well as to groups or associations in need who could make good use of the donated goods, products or services.

It also goes far beyond what “we” can do as individuals – but what “we” can do as a community, including the commitment of corporations through their corporate social responsibility policies, or nonprofit organizations making available supports and services to under-served populations. The WE Movement embraces the belief in a company's accountability to community. Likewise, nonprofit organizations offer help and hope to many differing populations on a daily basis when they engage in activities to fulfill their respective mission statements, whether it’s in the areas of health care, financial services, housing, legal guidance, youth programs or education, just to name a few.

The WE Movement invites you to join the Movement at http://www.wemovement.org/signup_form.aspx. WE have joined, will you?

1. Corporation for National & Community Service, Volunteering in America: National, State & City Information, June 2010.
2. Corporation for National & Community Service, Volunteering in America: National, State & City Information, June 2010.