By Houston Center, Texas (Originally in English)
On August 26, 2017, the state of Texas in the United States was battered by Hurricane Harvey, the strongest hurricane in the last 13 years. The continuous storm triggered unprecedented flooding, with major disaster declarations in 30 counties where more than 30,000 people had to seek shelters in stadiums, churches, schools and other buildings that were designated for people to stay safely. Approximately 100,000 homes were affected in Houston alone, and at least 39 people have lost their lives. Upon learning of the devastating situation, Supreme Master Ching Hai immediately provided a US$21,000 fund and our Houston Association members, following Master’s instruction to render aid, formed a relief team to help anyone we could.
As Houston Harris County was one of the most affected areas where many residential homes, roads and freeways were under five feet or more of water, our team drove a tall, big truck to help rescue those who were trapped in their homes on August 29. We collaborated with local Harris County officials and many other civilian groups to rescue residents who live northwest of Houston Harris County. The civilian and U.S National Guard groups used large powerboats to take people out of their flooded homes to dry land, and our members and other civilian volunteers helped to transport the victims to designated safe ground so they could move to the established shelters. Together we help rescue over 300 families and their animal companions in this area.
The next day, some of our members continued to work with the officials and volunteers to rescue people in areas with severe flooding, while the rest prepared hot vegan meals in Houston Loving Hut and Quan Yin Vegan Restaurant for disaster victims and volunteers. In total, we packed and delivered 1,800 delicious vegan meals to the rescued victims and volunteers, including civilians, NGOs and government officials who have been working very hard to assist those in urgent need.
On August 31, we learned from Ms. Oriana Garcia, the head coordinator of the main shelter set up by the State of Texas in the Houston NRG Stadium, that they needed hot vegan meals. Despite the short notice, we managed to deliver 1,000 free vegan meals to them. We told Ms. Garcia that our team is available to serve free vegan meals to the volunteer staff and evacuees if needed.
Our plan for the coming days is to prepare and provide free vegan meals to hurricane victims in city shelters and to volunteer staff, police, sheriffs, state troopers and county officials. Tomorrow, we will provide 200 meals for volunteer bus drivers who helped to transport flood victims. At this point, over 14,000 U.S Army trained personnel and U.S National Guards have come to affected counties in Texas to manage the rescuing task and many other duties. We are grateful for their service.
We met many volunteers who came all the way from neighboring states such as Alabama, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. A family from Alabama drove 12 hours straight in their truck under severe heavy rains and poor road conditions, and as soon as they arrived, they bought a brand new powerboat to rescue those victims in emergency situations.
Our relief team members would like to thank God for keeping us safe and protected so we could help those in need. In the face of such a calamity, Houstonians and our fellow Americans citizens showed the spirit of unity, courage and love in action. May Heaven bring comfort to all the victims of this catastrophic flood.*
*Flood relief updates, more photos, and details of expenditures, and receipts will be posted in the future.