Whenever we trade in an old year for a new one, it seems to wipe the proverbial slate clean. But on the east coast, that notion was somewhat thwarted by Hurricane Sandy and the destruction she left in her wake. But it's not as dismal as it sounds. Thanks to Jon Rose and Waves for Water, the people of the east coast are rallying around the New Year and charging ahead with their clean up efforts. Click 'Full Story' for photos and a personal address from Jon on all the victories being made daily in New York and New Jersey.
It's a new day… a new year...
I want to begin by wishing a happy new year to all my friends and family that have supported W4W, and more specifically, our Sandy Relief Initiative thus far…
We've been on the ground here in NY/NJ since day one of the Sandy relief efforts. I have seen every level of destruction and despair - homes ripped clear off their foundations... businesses broken beyond repair... and people tested in ways they could have never imagined. We have made it our mission to help these people get back on their feet and restore the lives they once had. We realize that the needs are seemingly endless, but we also realize that we can (and will) get there… together.
We, as a group, are making good progress... significant things are getting done each week... the hard work IS making a difference.
Houses gutted and ready to be restored.
This type of event is humbling beyond words… day in and day out I feel deeply moved by the overwhelming scale of what has happened... but with this humility, comes clarity. The vision of what's possible has never been more clear to me. We have all the pieces in place to make real long lasting positive impact throughout this entire recovery process...
Over the holidays I thought a lot about the significance of our actions - big and small… individually and collectively… I thought about the model we have created to confront all of the challenges brought on by Sandy… Building grass roots relief networks from the ground up. Local initiatives that are all aligned and connected through a central focus (W4W), but are thriving on their own - addressing the specific needs of their community as they come up, rather than operating under a generic blanketed approach like most traditional relief strategies.
Sam Hammer and Erin Wolleon at Belmar Relief Center in New Jersey.
Our Waves for Water team in Belmar, New Jersey.
We have watched the game change before our eyes… I can't begin to describe the satisfaction of watching the municipalities and authorities in various communities reach out to our crews for advice on what the next steps should be. The same authorities who never took surfers (and their culture) seriously, are now looking to them for guidance and stability throughout this recovery process… As I've said before, there are a lot of reasons why this is all working the way it is - most of the towns that got rocked the hardest are coastal surf/beach-lifestyle communities and in my opinion it's only natural that the people most connected to the ocean would be the most proactive… it's all a ripple effect - if the beaches (and all that goes along with them) are back up and running then so is the tourism - and the local economy that supports everything, thereafter. Then there's also the engrained DNA that comes with people of the ocean - a tendency to go towards things that the masses would consider dangerous (or at the very least, extremely difficult). It is an ethic that stems from battling the elements to enjoy the thing(s) that makes you most happy… it's a process that is only experienced by people that have a true relationship and understanding with nature - and her force. I honestly believe that this dynamic has been the deciding difference in helping to change the outdated models of relief work, while rewriting stereotypes in the process. I can say, without a shadow of doubt, that we've never had access to these types of people and resources during a relief initiative before…
That said, I want to quickly shed light on some of the more recent developments we've made since I last wrote.
We have officially created and launched two new programs -
1.) W4W Community Uplift Program - a straight monetary compensation program that we created to offer $2500 and $5000 grants to certain individuals/families that have endured an unthinkable level of hardship due to Sandy. In most cases people need money… plain and simple. Through our relief center partners each target community, we've been getting lists of candidates that qualify under our program criteria. The rest is simple - we get them either a $2500 or $5000 grant depending on their level of hardship and send them on their way. It becomes nothing short of an old fashioned stimulus program that can help people that have hit rockbottom - restore homes, pay rent/sec deposit on a new place, pay off credit card bills, or simply put food on the table. It is often the deciding factor from a psychological standpoint, that can help renew faith and keep people energized so they don't crumble all together.
2.) W4W Restore and Rebuild Program - a construction based initiative that we oversee and manage from start to finish (usually a $20K cap per site). We bring in our own contractor partners to look at households or small businesses we've selected and they give us a detailed line-item bid of what it will take to get everything restored. Then we decide (with the home/business owner) what the most pressing items are and have our team do those ASAP. There are so many houses/businesses, with so many problems… and since we do not have a limitless amount of funds, we obviously can't do everything. But what we have found is that in most cases there are a few paramount items that are holding up the entire process… yes it usually stems from a lack of funds to get these services done, but there are some things that are simply easier than others - people are more likely to find a way of getting floors put in than being able to get plumbing or electrical done. It's simple math, but it's also a lack of resources as a whole. So when we look into restoring a place it's more about choosing the most essential things that will then unblock the rest of the progress and allow people to fill in the other (less critical) holes, themselves, over time.
What's left of the Boardwalk.
I'd like to leave you with a letter that came in from our first recipient of the W4W Community Uplift Program (out of respect for privacy, their names shall remain anonymous). Since then, we've granted funds to four more families and started restoration projects on three additional homes through our W4W Restore and Rebuild Program. Lastly, between these two programs we have eight more families (and counting!) confirmed and slated for this coming week as well…
This letter is a good reminder of exactly why we do what we do... Plain and simple...
Jon & W4W,
I hope the holidays are treating you well. I can't begin to thank you enough for the check Waves4Water gave me. The day of our last meeting when I talked to ________, that was the absolute bottom of the barrel day for me & my family. The only money we had was what was in my pocket. The insurance co just gave us the latest excuse on why we haven't received a dime yet. That was when I finally cracked. Up until that day I worked hard, helped others, stayed positive & tried to lead the charge. Your generosity not only saved us from disaster but it also re-energized me. The only way I can repay you is to continue to do what I've been doing since the day after the storm. I'm focused & committed to not only getting my family into our home but also getting the people of the area back into their homes as soon as possible. Hopefully I'll see you soon so I can thank you in person.
Last but not least I want to leave you with a link to a film that Transition Productions put together on Hurricane Sandy - through the eyes of surfers. It's called East Coast Rising and I think they did a great job on it. Please feel free to share it - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjHiwR6LRlc&feature=youtu.be