By USA and Canada Relief Team, USA (Originally in English)
After inflicting severe damage throughout the Caribbean, Hurricane Sandy slammed the East Coast of the United States, leading to major flooding and destroying many communities in coastal New York and New Jersey. Striking in late October 2012, Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, causing the loss of more than 100 lives in the US alone. Sandy’s damage toll is estimated to be more than US$63 billion. Upon hearing of the devastation, Supreme Master Ching Hai provided a relief fund to our New York and New Jersey Centers, along with Her love and prayers, and instructions to render aid to those in need as soon as possible. Assisted by our Association members from Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, California and Canada, the two Centers organized relief teams to provide comfort, assistance and supplies to those affected. A total of US$28,000 from Master’s generous fund in addition to US$16,287.67 from our Association members was used for relief expenditures.
New York Team Aids Grassroots Groups
Our New York team set to work in the hardest hit communities of Staten Island, Coney Island, Rockaway and Breezy Point. In the latter two areas, our team found that most of the waterfront houses had been either partly or completely destroyed, while those that were still intact were severely flooded on the first floor. Several inches of beach sand had also been flushed into the streets, and entire blocks of houses had been consumed by fires.
At first it was challenging to locate the people most in need. However, our effort gained momentum when we met with Occupy Sandy Relief NYC, a grassroots organization that had set up distribution hubs in local churches and public buildings. Based on information from this caring group, our team shipped lighting equipment, winter gear, personal hygiene items, snacks, baby food, diapers and cleaning supplies to those affected, as well as vegan food for animals at shelters.
On November 22, 2012 our team served a Thanksgiving meal to approximately 350 people at Gravesend Houses, a community and distribution center in Coney Island, New York City. While enjoying the delicious, vegan dishes and snacks, the guests were entertained with songs from the musical, Loving the Silent Tears. During the meal a group of Occupy Sandy reporters visited the site, took pictures, and commented on how delicious the food was.
On December 5, 2012 we were notified by ecoVegan, a California-based company offering delicious, affordable vegan meat alternatives, that Supreme Master Ching Hai had made a generous contribution of vegan protein products worth US$9,952.20. With this gift, ecoVegan was able to ship us enough frozen vegan food to feed over 4,000 people.
Fortunately, we found the Occupy Sandy Kitchen, a cooking and serving facility operating in a Brooklyn church. In early 2013, we provided the Kitchen with some ecoVegan supplies along with vegan recipe books, Supreme Master Ching Hai Press Kit and climate change information. The staff were impressed by the delicious foods, happily accepted the contribution and promised to serve the dishes in a vegan way. They were also delighted that they could provide plant-based alternatives for people with special needs. After learning about the connection between diet and extreme weather, the Kitchen’s coordinator considered changing to a vegan diet, and other staff members supported the plant-based approach to combating climate change.
The Occupy Sandy Kitchen staff came to our warehouse to pick up vegan food items whenever they needed, as they did not have freezers to keep the donated supplies. However, after two months they were asked to return the kitchen to the church for the upcoming Easter holiday, so we began distributing the remaining vegan items directly to the following organizations in New York: Far Rockaway Outreach Center and Coney Island Lighthouse Mission each received 14 cases of vegan protein, while Gravesend Houses was the recipient of 10 cases of vegan protein.
All of these facilities are religiously affiliated and we were grateful to receive their help in distributing the food to those in need. More than 100 people benefited from the effort, with many receiving up to a two-week supply of food. The Coney Island Lighthouse Mission also helped our team organize a presentation on the link between diet and extreme weather.
Our New York relief team members were touched to see people helping one another without regard for religion or race, and members of different faiths uniting for the cause including a Sikh group that provided veg meals at the Roman Catholic St. Francis de Sales Parish in Rockaway. Team members were also grateful to have had the opportunity to learn and practice love and service to others.
Expenditures by Supreme Master Ching Hai and Her International Association for Hurricane Sandy Relief Work in New York City, USA
|Winter clothing for adults and infants (thermal underwear, hats, gloves, socks and blankets), personal supplies (utensils, toilet paper and diapers), cleaning supplies (mops, brooms, detergent, bleach, work gloves, rubber boots and garbage bags), plastic bags and lighting supplies (flashlights, headlamps, batteries, candles and matches), etc.||20,254.89||A|
|Food (baby formula, baby food, vegetables, bread, peanut butter, vegan protein, cooking oil, water, drinks, nuts, cookies and chips, etc.)||2,536.32||B|
|Supplies for animal friends (cloth towels, sheets, paper towels, detergent, bleach, padding material, collars, harnesses, snacks and vegan food, etc.)||2,738.26||C|
|Vegan protein products and shipping costs||9,952.20||D|
The relief team members contributed about US$2,000 for their own expenses including transportation, food and accommodations.
New Jersey Center Serves up Hot Meals and Comfort
On October 31, 2012 our New Jersey relief team delivered bottled water and paper towels to an emergency shelter in the Atlantic City area. The next day we formed two teams, one to continue assisting in southern New Jersey, and the other to work in the northern region, where several townships had been heavily flooded by an unexpected high surge. At an emergency shelter our team provided urgently needed supplies, and at two mobile home parks we delivered supplies and portable heaters to residents. Our team members also shared Supreme Master Ching Hai’s books and Supreme Master Ching Hai Press Kits.
On the third day we again formed into two groups: one continued aiding affected people in mobile home parks while another went to heavily flooded Hoboken, New Jersey, where most of the city was still without electricity. Many residents lacked food, and some were trapped in high-rise buildings. When our team arrived, they saw that water was still flowing from building basements, and furniture and garbage bags were piling up along the sidewalks. A kind woman at the Hoboken City Hall connected us with the Hoboken Shelter, where the staff graciously allowed our team to use the kitchen to cook meals for the public.
The next day in front of City Hall we served a vegan lunch of fried rice, salad, stir-fried veggies and cupcakes, which were enjoyed by many. Some said it was very special to have such nutritious food in that difficult time. Our team was delighted to see that right after lunch electrical power was restored to the city! The shops again had light and people became cheerful. With hearts full of love and gratitude, our team then left Hoboken.
On that day and the next, another team of our Association members delivered supplies to a homeless shelter in nearby Jersey City and daily necessities such as oatmeal, sugar and coffee to a seniors’ shelter, where the residents were delighted to receive the aid.
Also, due to falling temperatures and another approaching storm, our team brought more blankets, socks and portable heaters to the mobile home parks we had visited earlier, along with about 200 boxes of vegan food. The people were again extremely happy to receive the items.
On the sixth day several team members brought requested items such as cloth towels, blankets and paper towels to an animal shelter in Atlantic City. Our team also spent time with the animals and delivered supplies to the following “no-kill” shelters: Jersey Animal Coalition, Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), Humane Society Atlantic City, Liberty Humane Society, Almost Home Animal Rescue, Citizens Altering the Strays (C.A.T.S.), Sayreville Pet Adoption Center, and All About Animals New Jersey. In addition, animal-friendly, biodegradable laundry detergent was sent to the Humane Society of Ocean City, Mt. Pleasant Animal Shelter, the Animal Alliance, the Humane Society of Atlantic City, and the Liberty Humane Society.
During the Hurricane Sandy relief effort our New Jersey team used US$8,000 from Master’s relief fund and US$806 from the Centers’ contributions. We were grateful to help in providing comfort and care wherever we went, for the chance to work and grow with our Association members from other Centers, to serve others, and to expand our love. We pray that with more people adopting the compassionate, vegan lifestyle the frequency of such calamities will soon be reduced.
Expenditures by Supreme Master Ching Hai and Her International Association for Hurricane Sandy Relief Work in New Jersey
|For humans: vegan food, blankets, sleeping bags, portable heaters, towels, bottled water, paper towels, personal hygiene items and cleaning supplies, etc.||6,200||A|
|For animal friends: blankets, towels, paper towels, laundry detergent, etc. and cash contributions||2,606||B|