US VIRGIN ISLANDS ASSESSMENT MISSION
GER's Tim Williams travelled to St. Croix on Thursday, October 12 to conduct an assessment mission in partnership with the J/P Haitian Relief Organization (J/P HRO). The assessment, which was funded by the Clinton Foundation, evaluated the needs of US Virgin Islands (USVI) populations affected by Hurricane Maria as well as the effectiveness of pre-existing response efforts.
Over the course of the 10-day mission the assessment team was able to talk to over 60 interlocutors in St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John. The assessment sample included representation from all major groups involved in the disaster response, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Army Corps of Engineers, the USVI government, nonprofit organizations and the private sector.
Official findings from the deployment are expected to be released shortly by the Clinton Foundation. Please contact Drew Souders at email@example.com with any questions related to the assessment mission.
SINT MAARTEN RECOVERY OPERATION
GER's Brennan Banks and Drew Souders arrived in Sint Maarten with assistance from the Dutch military to respond to Hurricane Irma. A rapid ground assessment confirmed information that the team had gathered prior to departure - 95% of the structures on the island were affected by the hurricane, with widespread devastation across the island. The at-risk communities of Cay Bay, Cul-De-Sac, Middle Region and Dutch Quarter were among the hardest hit, as well as areas along the Philipsburg waterfront that received a direct hit from Irma.
In direct consultation with affected communities, the national government, U.N. partner agencies and key operational partner Tzu Chi Sint Maarten, GER designed two rapid recovery interventions to help the people of Sint Maarten in the wake of the storm. First was the removal of debris and cleanup of the Leonard Conner School in Cay Bay where nearly 300 students and teachers were waiting to reclaim and reopen the school. GER also oversaw debris removal from the home of an elderly woman and her disabled daughter on the Philipsburg waterfront.
Leonard Conner School Recovery - GER worked with 12 Tzu Chi volunteers to restore nine classrooms at the Leonard Conner school in Cay Bay. When the team showed up to assess the school each of the classrooms had a large amount of debris leftover from the storm, as well as standing water that acted as a perfect breeding ground for dangerous mold and mosquito larvae. Left any longer the mold would likely have spread to the wooden school walls, creating serious health issues for the children and likely resulting in a larger, more expensive reconstruction effort. The team's efforts will help students return to safe, clean classrooms by the Ministry of Education's target date of October 2nd.
Front Street Home Recovery - GER once again partnered with Tzu Chi on Monday, November 25th in order to clear debris from an elderly woman's home on Philipsburg's front street. Maisie's beachfront home has been in her family for generations, and survived over five hurricanes. Irma, however, ripped off the roof of the entire front of the house, knocked out the metal window gate of the front bedroom, and left the house in general disarray. The team worked throughout the afternoon to sweep out standing water from the home, remove debris, and load debris onto a truck for disposal in the Philipsburg landfill.
The team would like to thank Sandra Chu and Tzu Chi for the organization's incredible support throughout the deployment. GER also thanks IOM, UNDP, the Sint Maarten Government, the Netherlands Red Cross, the Dutch military, and all other organizations that helped provide the team with information and resources while on the island.
HURRICANE HARVEY RESPONSE OPERATIONS
GER supported immediate relief and recovery efforts following Hurricane Harvey, a category four hurricane that caused severe damage and flooding in southeast Texas. A GER response team deployed to Houston with vehicles, boats, equipment and supplies for affected families. The GER team worked with communities and families directly to assess the needs and subsequent steps for relief and recovery. Support included cleaning kits provided to help families return to their homes after flood waters receded, water pumping services and mold remediation efforts.
The GER cleaning kits contained various items including rubber gloves, brooms, mops, rags, trash cans, sponges, masks, chlorine and other disinfectants. GER volunteers delivered the kits and worked together with families to clean out and disinfect their homes. Disinfectants such as chlorine were extremely important, due to mold and disease-carrying residue that remained as a result of the flood waters. GER provided water pumping services to lower standing water from houses, which can create serious health concerns as mosquitos breed other sicknesses develop in the standing pools. Some houses had swimming pools which were also dangerous vector breeding grounds.
Mold presented a significant challenge to families returning home after flooding. GER supported families to help in the identification, treatment and remediation of mold. Although water resided, mold could be found behind drywall, in foundations and floors of homes. GER helped families to test for mold, identify solutions, and make decisions on repairs and return timeframes. The support involves coordinating and covering costs for local mold testing specialists to review homes, provide expert opinions on when and what items to remove or repair further before moving back in.
Lastly, GER provided cash grants to families, giving them the power of decision making and prioritizing their needs, such as food, medicine, school supplies, toys or any other immediate needs.
The GER response to Hurricane Harvey provided families with comfort that they are not alone and that there are people, including our donors, who care and will work together in these difficult times. As in all actions of help, the benefits go far beyond kits, supplies and services, to demonstrate the higher qualities of humanity and human cooperation among all persons. GER will continue to seek ways to provide relief, recovery and reconstruction services throughout the Harvey recovery process.
HAITI TREE RECOVERY OPERATION
On October 4, 2016 Hurricane Matthew struck the southwestern coast of Haiti. In its wake it left 540 people dead, 200,000 homes destroyed, and over 1.4 million people affected.
In January of 2017, GER began the Haiti Tree Recovery Operation in order to help the people of Haiti continue to rebuild their lives. With the goal of empowering the local people, GER partnered with UNDP to begin assisting the Haitian people. GER focused on recovering an overlooked, but important, resource: the fallen trees. Hurricane Matthew left 350,000 trees felled. These trees, if harvested before they rot, provide a great source of lumber, and must be cleared in order for farmers to be able to return to farming the land.
GER provided the following resources to the Haitian people:
- Training and safety equipment for the removal of trees from the field
- Portable table saws and training on creating planks from harvested trees
- Organization and distribution of equipment
The planks and harvested lumber from these sites have been used to rebuild homes, furniture, boats, and other products that Haitians have had the skills to create for decades. Furthermore farmers have been able to plant on the land cleared by these efforts. Over 3,000 square meters were harvested with over 2,000 Haitian people directly benefitting from GER's project and 10,000 indirectly benefitting.
NEPAL EARTHQUAKE RESPONSE
The idea for GER3 came from an incredibly successful debris removal and recovery operation led by GER3 founder and chairman Langdon Greenhalgh. The UNDP-funded program hired and trained 4,400 Nepalis, including 80 management-level engineers from local universities, to safely demolish and clear debris from 2,400 earthquake-affected structures. Teams cleared over 200,000 cubic meters of debris, recycling over $11 million worth of building material.