Hurricanes have a deep, long-lasting impact on the communities affected by them.
Today we’re reflecting on the incredible work that the funds raised two years ago during the Hand in Hand Benefit for Hurricane Relief have supported. On September 12, 2017, over one hundred of the nation’s biggest stars and the generous public came together for a night of hope and strength. Together, we raised $62 million dollars to support organizations directly serving communities suffering from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
The past two years have been full of challenges, successes, and, most importantly, key learnings for the Hand in Hand team and our partner organizations. Today we’re going to share some updates (in addition to what you can find the Hand in Hand homepage) that look at the aftermath of these hurricanes – and into the impact we’ve been able to have as your donations continue to support the effort to relieve, rebuild and recover together. If you have any questions, shout out to us on Twitter at @ComicReliefUSA or simply use the “contact us” form here on the Comic Relief website. We’d love to hear from you.
The Aftermath of the 2017 Hurricane Season
TEXAS & FLORIDA
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma were the strongest storms to hit the United States in ten years, dumping more than 20 trillion gallons of rainfall and evacuating millions across Texas and Florida. In their wake, over a quarter of the homes in hard-hit areas like the Florida Keys were left destroyed – leaving hundreds of thousands of people vulnerable and in need of help.
In Texas, Hand in Hand partnered with organizations like the Rebuild Texas Fund to strategically target regions like the Golden Triangle that suffered from a lack of economic drivers before the storm as well as a lack of relief resources during recovery. Hand in Hand partners, like the Rebuild Texas Fund, responding to the daily needs of these communities recognize that “fully recovering from a historic storm like Harvey will take many years and billions of dollars.” The good news is the strength and community bonds that arose as a result of countless volunteers and generous donations have changed the landscape of recovery and invigorated hope. In places like Rockport, Texas, rebuilding could have taken as long as ten years. But with the support of partnerships like Hand in Hand and the Rebuild Texas Fund, communities are making progress every day.
In Florida, as hurricanes have become more common occurrences in the past 15 years, high-need investment areas have become clearer, including infrastructural and mental-health resilience building and cross-sector coordination. Hand in Hand partners like Save the Children, local United Way affiliates, and Habitat for Humanity led many of the relief responses to meet these needs and identified the solutions. Long Term Recovery Committees were established to ensure funds donated across organizations and sectors were being used in the most strategic way and reaching the most vulnerable first.
In Puerto Rico, hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the island in September 2017, causing over 4,600 deaths, monetary damages estimated at $138 billion, and destroyed and damaged over 320,000 homes. Communications and electric infrastructure were obliterated, and water supply was severely impaired. Over 200,000 Puerto Ricans fled to the United States mainland in search of safe housing and jobs. This destruction exacerbated the already dire economic condition of the island. From many personal accounts the Hand in Hand team received, some Puerto Rican community members felt that the storms unveiled the true poverty and needs of the island.
Hand in Hand funds in Puerto Rico have supported emergency medical responses, immediate commodity needs (food, water, shelter), long-term housing rebuilding, land title case management, early childhood education programs, and various programs to address unique community needs from the urban settings of San Juan to the rural communities of Adjuntas.
Janice Petrovich, former Executive Director of la Red de Fundaciones de Puerto Rico and a trusted partner of Hand in Hand, writes in an insightful philanthropic report that while Irma and Maria left behind extensive damage, they did “enable Puerto Rico to participate in new philanthropic opportunities that had been lacking prior to the storms.” This was one of the “silver linings” in the aftermath of Irma and Maria, and Hand in Hand was proud to serve as part of this new philanthropic wave of support. As Petrovich recounts, there were new giving trends, such as “the activation of the Puerto Rican diaspora, the pervasiveness of crowdfunding mechanisms, the return of national foundations that had long been absent from the island, the surge in individual giving, and the arrival of philanthropic entities that were new to the island.”
A Look at Hand in Hand's Impact
We are proud to report that, thanks to the generous contributions of Hand in Hand donors and partnerships with 16 organizations, the Hand in Hand funds reached all 78 municipalities in Puerto Rico, parts of the Dominican Republic, the hardest hit communities in Florida, including the Florida Keys, Miami-Dade county, Fort Myers, and Texas, including Houston and the Golden Triangle.
One exciting highlight is that Hand in Hand funds were used to support Banco de Alimentos,the sole food bank in Puerto Rico, to acquire the appropriate infrastructure in a new, larger facility. The new facility will be up and running this Fall of 2019 at a higher capacity to help address ongoing hunger and food scarcity issues that arose in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
The funds raised for Hand in Hand have been awarded to a diverse range of organizations who through their programming aimed to meet the various immediate and long-term needs that hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria left behind. However, with the unfortunate reality that natural disasters can strike at any time, we hope that you can continue your support directly to these trusted partners, knowing that your donations will go a long way: