By Heidi Ham, Vice Presidenct, Programs and Strategy at the National AfterSchool Association. This article was original published on September 5, 2017 on the National AfterSchool Association’s website.
It’s back to school (and afterschool) for most of the United States, but in Texas, Hurricane Harvey has shuttered hundreds of school districts.
According to the Texas Education Agency (TEA), Hurricane Harvey has had devastating effects on the education community of the Gulf Coast. More than one million students have been affected in some way. Formal and informal educators nearby and across the country are asking how they can help.
Michelle Pina from NAA’s Texas Affiliate, the Texas AfterSchool Association (TAA), said, “The sun is shining but so many are still being rescued and evacuated after Harvey. Houston Independent School District (IDS) announced today that school would not resume until September 11 and surrounding districts are tentative for September. Many districts to the south have no start date because they are still without power. An organization in other states reached out to the TEA to see how afterschool programs can help Houston and other cities in Texas.”
Alison Reis-Khanna from Texas Partnership for Out-of-School Time (TXPOST) chimed in to let us know that afterschool folks have reached out, ready to help. Large youth development organizations such as Boys and Girls Clubs and YMCAs have been collecting supplies and have opened their facilities providing safe spaces, showers, and electricity to those in need. The YMCA of Greater Houston and the Children’s Museum of Houston have combined forces to create fun zones with engaging activities for young children at shelters. The Informal Science Educators Association has also been recruiting volunteers to deliver programming for kids at shelters during this challenging time. The TEA is creating a list of school needs and TXPOST is working with the Community Learning Centers coordinator to determine how connections can be made between needs of afterschool programs and those interested in helping.
Adrian Izaguirre, one of NAA’s Next Generation of Leaders from Houston, shared, “As we reach the end of this catastrophe, we are preparing to recover and come out stronger than before.” Alumni have started a fund supporting the southeast communities surrounding the schools they attended as young people.
A recent EdWeek article stated, “It’s important to remember that if you’re far away and looking to give, as of right now, money is probably the best way to go. Schools and communities are still assessing their needs.” Goods given during emergencies often go to waste. These donations can even do more harm than good when they interfere with disaster response efforts.
NAA President Gina Warner added, “I know from my own Katrina experience that the people being affected need to have a voice — sharing their needs. In New Orleans, we were overwhelmed by well-intentioned but inappropriate donations that we couldn’t use, store, or donate to anyone else.”
“Our hearts go out to our members and others that have been impacted by Hurricane Harvey,” said Heidi Ham, NAA Vice President of Programs and Strategy. “The afterschool community is traditionally resilient and an integral part of the education landscape. You can see this ongoing commitment to young people and their families through the efforts and outreach already underway, and I know with a little guidance, Afterschool can provide even more support.”
Two of NAA’s key strategic focus areas are providing quality professional development (PD) and resources for and connecting the afterschool field. We do not know the immediate needs of the people in the midst of the disaster, but we can assume that funds for recovery are needed immediately and for years to come. The ideal way to show your compassion is to donate money to a charity that you respect.
Following are some ways that members of afterschool communit0y — from near and far — can join in with efforts already in motion to support of young people and families.
Organizations Mentioned Above:
• BlackAmericaWeb.org Relief Fund—funds raised will go to victims and those who are assisting families affected.
• Communities in Schools (CIS) North Texas all proceeds from North Texas Giving Day for South Texas will go to the 10 CIS chapters in the Gulf Coast.
• DonorsChoose, Hurricane Harvey Recovery Fund will help school day teachers restock classrooms.
• Save the Children is providing relief supplies and services to help children and families in shelters and other victims of Hurricane Harvey.
• Texas Diaper Bank provides emergency diaper kits (which are not distributed by relief agencies) for babies, seniors, and people with disabilities.
• Undies for Everyone funds go to collection and distribution of underwear to people in shelters. Many people in emergencies like Houston don’t have something as simple as clean underwear.
And finally, because we believe music brings people together and helps heal, this.
Charity Navigator has a list of groups that are accepting donations for the storm (and ratings for each one).