In the deadly wake of hurricane Harvey this past month, 600 women literally and figuratively answered the call. This small army of everyday mothers were key leaders in organizing the Hurricane Harvey Rescue Dispatchers (HHRD). Together, they successfully helped rescue over 20,000 people.
A few of the heroes include: Lisa Rochelle Zuniga (32) stay-at-home mother of 3, Yvonne Marie Perez, her sister, Erin Rivard (34) stay-at-home mother of 4, Jasmine Othman (42) artist, Lisa Campbell stay-at-home mother of small children, Nichole S. graduate student and social media strategist, and Meghan Girarld (34) social media consultant. These were among the handful of leaders that emerged to organize a data entry task force, and special teams to help plot addresses from the many spreadsheets onto actual maps. Teams were then organized to communicate directly with the relief efforts on the ground and dispatch them to the most-needed locations. This was perhaps the most harrowing job, to work triage and discern which of all cases was the most desperate. Their sophisticated social media and public relations outreach helped to bring more support as the phone calls kept coming in by the hundreds. Their creative training videos helped new volunteer recruits know what to do. And so these unlikely heroes worked around the clock, 24 hours a day, only taking small shifts to eat or sleep. Because many of them had small children, they set up babysitting stations in each others’ homes. When the physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion became too overwhelming, they encouraged one another onward, each with the powerful unspoken desire to rescue just one more person.
This courageous group of young stay-at-home mothers, working mothers, college students, young professionals, and grandmothers, saw a need and were moved by compassion to show up despite their feelings of inadequacy. After all, none of them were professional emergency responders, and none of them felt like they knew what they were doing.
How is it then that they were able to succeed? Better yet, who are these women and what is it about them that enabled them to do what they did?
When interviewed, there was a general expression of “we had to do something,” or “I couldn’t not help.” It was their compassion and desire to do “something” that qualified them for the work. This capacity to not bury their heads in the sand, or turn away from a challenge is the result of an accumulation of many years of simply showing up and pitching in within family and community life. This lifestyle of service is what gave them the strength, skill, and confidence to enlist in the greater effort when the task was so daunting.
In the small acts of service we offer in our homes and communities everyday, we establish a steady pattern of genuine care and compassion. These many immeasurable little acts of kindness and service become the very essence of who we are. So, when faced with a catastrophic event or emergency, it becomes a natural reaction for us to find some way to alleviate the burden of another. We draw on our scrappy and creative problem solving skills developed in our everyday lives. When we serve diligently and tirelessly in our homes and interpersonal circles, it prepares us to extend that work ethic and good will to members of our larger community and global family. Those millions of seemingly insignificant choices we make everyday–to show up, get involved, and never give up when everything seems against us–lay the very foundation for the grit and courage needed to alleviate suffering on a much greater scale.
As great civil unrest and natural disasters are on the rise in nearly every part of the globe today, there are times when hiding our heads in the sand, or turning our faces away from the struggle seems appealing. Yet try as we might, it is not in our nature to not help. As maternal feminists, the same love and concern we feel for our own children and families, is the same love and concern that will compel us to alleviate the burdens of our greater human family. And the leadership and organizational skills we are developing everyday as we love and serve others, is magnifying our humanitarian credentials.
In the words of Lisa, one of the volunteer rescue dispatchers mentioned above, “No effort that is a force for good is ever too small.” Big Ocean sisters, may we move forward in our our everyday service, and may we be encouraged as we answer the call for great heroism when the time comes.Truly, we have been prepared for such a time as this!
Needless to say, the relief efforts in Houston and in many parts of the world are on going. For ideas of organizations you can support you can check out this list.
— Carolina Allen