Iqra Shaikh recently attended a disaster response deployment with IRUSA. She graduated from UC Berkeley and founded Major Probs, an organization dedicated to inspiring and empowering students globally. She reflects on her experience with ReliefLab.
A few weeks ago, I had the honor and privilege of volunteering as a part of a Disaster Response Team aiding those impacted by the Orville Dam evacuations and the San Jose flooding. This experience opened my eyes and made me realize a few things—here are a few of my reflections and thoughts.
1. Humanity Transcends All Religions
I have always believed in this notion, but it is something that I have rarely seen in action. Here I am defining religion as a way of life. A way of life which may or may not conform to a set of certain set of principles, rules, regulations, guidelines, regions, and/or identities. While volunteering, I had the privilege of meeting people from different religious backgrounds and walks of life. People who, on a regular basis, I would not have the opportunity to associate with. This included former members of the military, congregants of the Southern Baptist Church, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs, Atheists, Muslims, and everything in between. The only thing that these folks appear to have in common is their desire to help others. A duty which was not taken lightly.
2. Not All Heroes Wear Tights and It Really Does Take a Village
The response to these disasters was truly a village coming together. Our team brought up donations from the South Bay and the surrounding regions. People flew in from all over the country, leaving the comfort of their family and homes to sacrifice their time and energy. Supplies brought in from all over the USA provided food and shelter. Each person who donated an item, resources, or their time is a hero. What I realized is this: people have good intentions and even if they cannot physically be there, their spirit and well wishes can. I just want to give a shout out to all the volunteers who worked 12 hours shifts. It is mentally and physically exhausting, and they all have my utmost respect and admiration for doing it day after day.
3. How Can We Prevent This?
While it is great seeing the community coming together like this, the real question is how can we prevent things like this from happening? Climate change will only worsen the impact of events like this and if we do not take precautionary measures, more people will be impacted in the future. From conversations I had with those who were impacted, I learned that there were very few alternatives. If we can come together to aid these people in disasters, what is preventing us from aiding them before these disasters occur? How can we work to provide alternatives?
These are not million dollar questions, these are the questions for over a million lives.