In August 2017, Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm, devastated the lives of 13 million people in five states – Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky. At its zenith on September 1, 2017, one-third of Houston, Texas, was still underwater, with over 200,000 homes damaged. More than 12,000 of these homes were completely obliterated.

Since the day the Hurricane Harvey made landfall, the SSIO members of South-Central Region of USA have engaged in disaster relief activities such as home restoration and distribution of relief supplies. The relief work totaled over 6,000 hours of services provided to the three communities most devastated by the hurricane. Sai volunteers have donated more than 8,000 pounds of rice and vegetables, 500 blankets, 600 hygiene kits, 30 air mattresses, 200 bedding sets, 100 baby items (such as diapers and wipes) and 500 school items (such as bag packs and stationery) to about 100 families over a period of 2 years.

In the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, Sai volunteers have actively participated in home restoration efforts with great zeal and zest, despite their very limited experience in this area. The tasks included the mucking and gutting of mold infested walls, and the removal of damaged floors and debris. Since then, Sai volunteers have continued to focus their efforts in restoring homes and greenhouses in Rosharon, Texas. This relief work has been done in collaboration with several community agencies and service organizations such as the Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation, Municipal Utility District 148, SEWA International, The Alliance Disaster Recovery Program and Harvey Housing Recovery Project. These homes have been built from start to finish by many community volunteers dedicated to the mission of making sure that displaced families are returned to their homes as soon as possible. Towards that aim, Sai volunteers have diligently worked every week on laying the foundation, building floors, installation of siding and wallboard, and painting.

Many of the Sai volunteers have taken on these daunting challenges with much enthusiasm and commitment, despite having neither the experience nor skills in carrying out these tasks. Indeed, the SSIO has received several accolades and awards from these partner organizations, as well as glowing testimonials for their relief work. For instance, a community leader, Paul Boeur praised the Sai volunteers for their relief efforts in Rosharon, Texas:

“Many people in our community have no place to stay. They have lived in tents through the winter.  Groups like the SAI group have helped greatly by distributing food, relief supplies and home restoration supplies. We appreciate the many volunteers from your group who have served in our community including the team from New Jersey who have traveled so far to come to help us.”