HOPE works in more than 35 countries worldwide. Please enjoy our blog as we document the successes and challenges of our work to provide Health Opportunities for People Everywhere.
Weretaw filed this story from Houston, where he has helped manage HOPE’s response to Hurricane Harvey.
Project HOPE’s approach to disaster response reminds me of my wonderful mother from Ethiopia. She knew how to do a lot of good with the limited resources she had. With my father’s $50 monthly salary, she was able to feed, clothe and do other things for our family of nine (seven kids and my parents). Growing up in Ethiopia, and later in life, when I started earning my own money, it puzzled me how my poor mother was able to do so much with the limited sum of money she managed each month. I was not able to make ends meet with what I earned, which was substantially more than what my mother had. I concluded that my mother had no other option but to accomplish a lot with her meager resources and so she did. Simply put, she was very resourceful.
And this same sense of determination and careful calculation to achieve the most we can with the resources we have is what I have been witnessing at work with Project HOPE.
I have managed the logistics of disaster response around the world and at times we have had to achieve what seemed impossible. I have seen that Project HOPE knows how to stretch each dollar and do a lot of good with limited resources during a time of great need. I have also learned that you need more than just a fat bank account to do good in this world. Project HOPE’s response to Hurricane Harvey in Texas is a good example of this. As part of the HOPE team here in Houston and with other disasters further afield, I have learned that with good will, a smart plan and resourcefulness, we can accomplish a great deal -- people’s health issues can be addressed, health workers can gain knowledge, medicines can be administered and people struggling in a crisis can be heard.
It all comes from a desire to make a difference. It comes from good will and a desire to serve others.
Since I joined Project HOPE two years ago, I have been part of the team that responded to the earthquake in Ecuador, Hurricane Matthew in Haiti and now Hurricane Harvey in Texas. What I’ve come to understand is that, like my mother in Ethiopia, somehow Project HOPE has figured out how to make each dollar count and find ways to partner with other NGOs to help achieve what might seem impossible. When I see the number of lives touched and transformed by what Project HOPE is doing here in Houston and around Houston, I come back to my original question: “How can someone do such a lot of good, when there are so many needs, despite resource limitations?”
For more than 20 years I worked for large-scale global organizations with access to significant resources. They are also doing a lot of good for humanity, but what makes Project HOPE’s disaster response approach unique and intriguing is the organization’s ability to impact so many lives with health services provided by HOPE volunteers who never tire of this work, finding ways and partners to fix a problem at a clinic or hospital – all of this while making every dollar count. I am of the opinion that just as my mother figured out how to create miracles with so little, Project HOPE has figured out how to do the same thing.
A timely intervention by a Project HOPE volunteer working in the Hurricane Harvey disaster zone might just have saved a life today.
Lindsey Ryan-Martin, a nurse practitioner from Massachusetts General Hospital saw a patient at the San Jose Clinic in Rosenberg, Texas.
A routine check showed the patient’s blood pressure was very elevated and required immediate attention.
“Stress levels are high after a disaster like Harvey and some patients we see have high blood pressure and other chronic illnesses but have lost their medicines when their homes flooded. For patients who have a history of high blood pressure, or hypertension, we are concerned because this is a very serious condition. It’s called “the silent killer” because it typically has no symptoms until after it has done significant damage to the heart and arteries," said Lindsey.
"I was glad we could help this patient get the care she needed to address this serious illness.”
For many in this small Texas town, including Lindsey’s patient, access to health care isn’t easy. An emergency like this patient’s severe hypertension becomes complicated very quickly. Some in the community don’t have the documentation required at most clinics and will not seek treatment for serious conditions.
HOPE’s nurse practitioner made a lifesaving difference for this patient because she recognized the importance of the problem and acted rapidly. With the proper emergency care, the patient’s blood pressure was lowered into a normal range and the patient received a supply of medication to replace the medicines lost in the flood.
Project HOPE has over a dozen medical volunteers, including physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists and mental health professionals, who are working hard to provide health services for vulnerable groups affected by Harvey. Health services include crucial tetanus immunizations, treatment for chronic illnesses, mental health services, and HOPE is also supplying hundreds of hygiene kits to help protect against the poor sanitation conditions that are a result of widespread flooding.
"CALLING ALL NURSES” -- that was the plea on Twitter by Florida Governor Rick Scott as hundreds of thousands of people crammed into shelters, fleeing the wrath of Hurricane Irma. Anytime so many people, including the elderly, flock into one place in such numbers there will always be a need for medical care and support. This is especially true at a time when first responders in the path of the massive storm are warning that it’s simply too dangerous for them to respond to 911 calls, and in such extreme conditions the normal regular medical services that we are used to, quickly grind to a halt.
Officials in Florida have said that they had a good response from nurses in the state but even in this one area of the hurricane problem, needs are likely to remain acute. That’s why Project HOPE is mobilizing medical volunteers to deploy to shelters in Florida that are hosting hundreds of special needs patients, including the elderly. Our disaster response team is coordinating with health authorities to dispatch our medical team as soon as conditions are safe for travel. This is likely to be just one aspect of the Project HOPE response, but given that the storm is unfolding, it’s one initiative we know ahead of time that can make a difference.
Learn more about HOPE's response to Hurricane Harvey and Irma.
Two weeks after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, the storm is still having a serious impact on the health and well-being of the people of Texas. This is especially true for those individuals and families who remain displaced and face an uncertain future. And even more so for those who have limited or no access to proper medicines and health services.
After initially supporting rescue and recovery efforts with our partners on the ground, we expanded our response by deploying our deeply experienced disaster response team to coordinate with local officials and quickly and accurately assess the health services needed for victims of the storm.
Your Support at Work
Now, Project HOPE’s medical teams are on the front line bringing crucially needed care and comfort amid the crisis. More than a dozen volunteers including physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists and mental health professionals are operating in the Houston area providing a range of services to hundreds of patients as the region struggles to get back on its feet. This support has also helped alleviate the burden on local health care professionals, many of whom worked punishing hours after the hurricane hit, some without knowing how their own homes and families had fared.
HOPE is providing a full spectrum of medical care at clinics in Katy and Tomball in partnership with Heart to Heart International as well as at the San Jose Clinic. This includes administering tetanus immunizations to protect people as they clear out damaged and flooded homes and have to contend with mold, water contamination and a compromised sanitation system. To help prevent the spread of disease, HOPE has also delivered 500 hygiene kits with an additional 500 kits are on the way.
HOPE Meeting a Range of Needs
There is a range of unique medical conditions and needs related to the hurricane. Some patients are presenting with chronic conditions, including rashes that are the result of wading in contaminated floodwater and our teams are also encountering some people who need psychosocial support because of the trauma of living through such a frightening national disaster.
"We’re seeing patients that have medical problems related to the storm but we’re predominantly seeing patients that need help with their chronic medical problems whether they’ve had a flare of those problems or can’t access their doctor for medication refills,” said HOPE medical volunteer, Dr. Carolyn Apple, an emergency and internal medicine physician.
"We’re talking about people who have run out or are about to run out of medicines for their blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, or some chronic respiratory disease such as asthma."
One of the most crucial services being provided by HOPE’s team is counseling for shocked citizens who have seen their homes and lives devastated by the storm and the floods that consumed vast tracts of southern Texas. Dr. Nancy Miller (pictured right) specializes in post-disaster mental health services and helps children and families address the emotional distress that many face in the wake of such great loss. And HOPE nurse practitioner Carma Erickson-Hurt said the needs are in many cases psychological and emotional.
“We’re doing a lot more than just giving a tetanus shot. Each patient has an emotional story to share and we’re (here) to listen and support those patients and refer them, if necessary, to a mental health professional here at the clinic who is experienced in crisis situations and can help with some of these issues,” she said.
Our Work is Far From Complete
The impact of our team’s work is not in doubt. It’s written across the faces of people who badly need our help to help themselves.
"I have received more hugs in the last week than I have received in the last year and some of that is sharing emotional experiences and hearing some stories,” said Dr. Apple.
As Project HOPE continues to widen its response to Hurricane Harvey, we are also acutely aware of Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 hurricane that has already battered parts of the Caribbean and could hit the continental U.S. this weekend. Thank you for your continued support as we monitor the impact of these storms and continue to respond where the need is greatest.
Carma is a clinical nurse specialist and member of the HOPE medical team in Katy, Texas, providing health services to people impacted by Harvey. Carma has been administering tetanus immunizations in a mobile clinic as part HOPE's partnership with Heart to Heart International.
The very first day that I was here, a dad came into the clinic. He was 25 or 30 years old and he brought his five-year-old daughter. He told me how he had left his house as the waters were rising and when he started walking out of the house, he had his daughter clinging to him and the water was reaching his chest. He was petrified. I asked if he could swim and he said “no.” He got choked up.
He got so, so scared, walking in the water and not knowing if it was going to get deeper.
And there are a lot of snakes down here in Texas that might have been swimming around him. He was petrified of snakes. He also said his daughter is traumatized because during the floods, she looked over and saw parts of her school under water -- and she had just started kindergarten. So we were able to listen to him and refer him to a counselor in the clinic and the next day he brought his daughter back to see a counselor. We were able to initiate care that he and his daughter needed. I will always remember him.
We’ve seen over a hundred patients just in the last few days. As we give each patient a tetanus shot, we talk to them and listen to their story. We’re seeing people who are going back into their homes for the first time since the floods started receding. They’re worried about injuries, cuts, and bacteria.
We’re also seeing a lot of teachers who are taking time off to serve the community and help people clean their homes. We’ve also seen quite a few police officers who have been deployed here from other parts of Texas. We’re also offering mental health services and educating people about how to care for wounds.
I’ve been volunteering for Project HOPE for 10 years all over the world, but this mission has a different meaning for me because it’s a disaster here at home in the United States. I have been so impressed by the community response which has been so welcoming. People openly show their gratitude for the health services we’re providing and we feel really embraced by the community and that makes a huge difference.
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