“WeCare Disaster Response is welcome to assist us anytime. We are proud of the young people and their willingness to help. No matter the task, they do not complain. They work hard. They get the job done.” – Joe Watts, North American Director for Adventist Community Services
WeCare Disaster Response has responded to several disasters over the years. When the New York Twin Towers collapsed in 2001, WeCare Disaster Response was formed. Several professional Psychologists responded, as did hundreds of students, faculty, and community members. Over the course of one year, WeCare sent 920 volunteers to New York to assist.
Belize City is the oldest (dating 300 years old) and largest city in Belize with a population of about 80,000 people, despite the fact that it was almost completely destroyed when Hurricane Hattie swept ashore October 31,1961. It is located at the mouth of the Belize River on the coast of the Caribbean. Belize City is the nation’s principal port and its financial and industrial hub.
Guatemala’s main Caribbean Sea port, together with its more modern twin port town just to the southwest, Santo Tomás de Castilla. Puerto Barrios lies 3 feet above sea level. It’s coordinates are 15 71 N, 88 60 W. This modern twin came about due to the fact that the earthquake on February 4 of 1976, one of the worst in the history of the country, destroyed most of the port facilities of Puerto Barrios, and most modern cargo traffic moved to Santo Tomás de Castilla.
As of 2003 the estimated population of Puerto Barrios was 40,900 people. That population consists of Afro-Guatemalans, Maya, Afro-Caribbean, and other West Indian groups. Puerto Barrios is starting to get more visitors in the new century and Puerto Barrios Airport is currently being refurbished in order to receive scheduled flights in the near future.
In 2005, WeCare Disaster Response heard the call and again assisted with 886 volunteers helping to clean up debris, distribute clothing, and warehousing activities of donated goods.
On September 4, 2008, 40 Andrews University students and staff boarded the University bus and headed to Hammond, Louisiana, to aid in the relief of Hurricane Gustav which swept through Jamaica as well as the Gulf of Mexico. Groups were assembled to tackle many different projects on their arrival in Louisiana. Fallen trees needed to be cut and moved out of streets. Houses needed to be cleaned, roofs replaced and yards freed of debris. Survival kits and supplies were handed out and aid was given to those who needed it. Over 900 clothing kits were distributed during their time in Louisiana. The people affected by the hurricane were very grateful for the help, help in cleaning their homes, yards and streets. But most of all, it was apparent that they were grateful for the disaster relief because it gave them hope, hope in a world where, although pain exists, there are people who will extend the healing hand of Christ.
Hurricane Ike, which hit Texas on September 13, 2008, was the most massive Atlantic hurricane ever recorded at that time. Although it was a Level 2 hurricane as it came ashore, its Level 4 storm surge contributed to its destructive force, the third most destructive after Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina with $31.5 billion in damages.
In response, 12 volunteers from Andrews University and one from Pioneer Memorial Church flew to Houston, Texas, to demonstrate God’s love through serving those in need. The relief trip was organized and lead by Jeff Boyd, Krystal McKenzie, and Wanda Swensen, current director of WeCare Disaster Response.The first two days, Saturday and Sunday, were spent distributing clothes, cleaning supplies and personal care kits at the Galveston SDA Church, approximately two hours from Beaumont. Over the two days, more than 1,500 people received needed support on the devastated island. Over the the next few days, the volunteers spent time repairing homes, cleaning up lots that used to be inhabited by homes, as well as handing out supplies to locals. As a total, 5 days were spent in Texas providing help, supplies and spiritual support to those that needed it.
On January 12 ,2010, a large scale earthquake rocked the capital of Haiti. As reports hit the airwaves, it was obvious Haiti was going to need help. Conference calls were held, organizations met, and action was the key word.
WeCare Disaster Response immediately called a meeting with its advisors and unanimously decided to help. Wanda Swensen, Director, and her coordinator, Paul Muniz, traveled to Haiti in February 2010 to put logistics in place for a future trip to Haiti. Because of the urgent need for medical professional, WeCare Disaster Response formed a partnership with Loma Linda University Medical Center and sent medical teams to serve in Haiti.