This Sandy relief project is indeed a marathon, not a sprint. I have to continuously remind myself of this. There is so much that needs to be done, the scope is unbelievable.
But the same way we approach our programs in other countries, I try to put our emphasis solely on what is in front of us. If that is getting something as simple as a storage container delivered to our crew in Rockaway, then so be it. We focus our attention towards the most immediate need, and once it’s completed, we move on to the next task directly in front of us. It’s a pragmatic and seemingly obvious action plan, but always a challenge to maintain due to the overwhelming amount of needs. It’s so easy to get fragmented and pulled in a million different directions ultimately crippling our ability to efficiently execute anything. If we maintain a laser focus on every action we make, we start to see momentum the build…and real quantifiable results over time.
We’ve all heard the saying—Every action has a reaction—and I’m now beginning to see, in this case especially, the positive ripple effects from the actions we’ve helped to initiate.
I spend most of my week in the field visiting the various local efforts we help support and I am always asking our friends and colleagues what it is they need to execute their plans this week. In disaster response and recovery, we can’t even begin to calculate the full value of human participation—of one person helping another, times thousands. For example, Michelle Cortez, at the 96th St. relief outpost in Rockaway, had a very specific request, a vehicle, something to transport goods and manpower from their outpost to the different pockets in their neighborhood that were hit hardest. It’s a basic thing, but probably one of the most important pieces of the puzzle for their entire operation.
So we immediately went out and provided a 15 person van with all but the first row of seats removed. I had just got off the phone with Michelle and she said that the van has been instrumental in so many aspects of their work this past week. I use this example because of how fundamental it is; our work is not rocket science it’s problem solving. We simply find the holes in the system and fill them. And the key to finding the these holes is by spending time in these places, real time, listening to the folks from these communities day in and day out. They are the ones who know exactly what is needed in each unique circumstance, and what to expect in the coming days, weeks, and months. There are no shortcuts; good intel only comes from the ones actually living on the front lines, enduring relentless post-disaster conditions.
We can have all the experience in the world and still miss the simplest solutions because we just don’t know these communities or their deeply nuanced and generational structure. That said, even though we (Waves 4 Water) have a very clear long term vision for this project—one that sees things all the way through the final stages of residential and small business rebuilds—it’s all the daily steps in-between (such as providing a van) that help each person succeed with what they’ve taken on. Basically, there is no small effort for they are all links in a chain that connect us to our desired outcome.
Another very cool development this past week was working with AeroBridge who has been coordinating shipments of donated (essential) supplies via their network of privately owned Cessnas. With tail numbers in hand, we met 5 different planes, at a private airstrip in NJ; they flew in all the way from Florida and were packed to the brim with all sorts of essential supplies (cleaning supplies, food, toiletries, etc.) that we then got out into the communities later that afternoon. Big shout out to Catherine Murphy and Marianne Stevenson for coordinating the effort and giving us the opportunity to be the receiving organization. We are used to collaborating with small aviation and charter boat companies to get urgent deliveries of supplies to remote locations (planes in Africa, boats in Indonesia), but it was an unexpected (and pleasant) surprise to do same thing here at home.
There are a bunch of great efforts going on all up and down the coast but one of them I’d like to highlight is the Rockaway Plate Lunch Truck, the brainchild of Robbie Mckinley and Mike D. They were at our first round table meeting in Brooklyn and from that moment on, they knew exactly what type of aid they wanted to provide—food!
They are a shining example of people using their resources in a very targeted way. As they have deep ties to it, Mike and Robbie knew they could rally the local culinary scene and they did just that, commandeering a food truck and getting many of the top chefs in the area (such as Sam Talbot and Ken Friedman) to head out to Rockaway and feed 500+ people, everyday. Again, a fairly simple concept, but extremely impactful. These are exactly the types of grass roots initiatives we love to facilitate via Waves For Water.
The food truck crew also did a Thanksgiving feast in Far Rockaway at the Challenge Prep Charter School that serviced a few hundred people from that neighborhood. In addition, we also helped to facilitate two other Thanksgiving feasts—one more in Rockaway, with a badass group called Operation SurfinBird and the other, with a woman in NJ named Melanie Magaziner, who organized a wonderful feast for some of the LBI Sandy victims. Again, great examples of tangible efforts on the ground that we try to support day in and day out.
As I’ve already stated, there are many great efforts going on up and down the coast—it’s hard to name them all—but I have seen them firsthand and we will continue to do our best in supporting them. It is an absolute honor and privilege to be doing this work and more importantly, to do it with such amazing people. I have been blown away at the dedication of so many people that did not choose this, but have risen to the occasion and truly lead their communities through such a turbulent time.
— by Jon Rose