As Houston recovers from Hurricane Harvey, its citizens are now dealing with the reconstruction phase, and volunteers are coming along to help.
The Metropolitan Volunteer Program, a student organization centered around volunteering in Houston, is assisting in the reconstruction by creating a dedicated committee focused on Harvey relief.
“Where the need is, that’s where we’ll be,” said MVP Director Lisa Menda.
Katy Kaesebier, the associate director at the Center of Student Involvement, said MVP wants to identify one to two projects per week for volunteers.
“We’re going to need volunteers (and) resources, and we are working with our community partners to do this,” Kaesebier said. “Our focus will include the Third Ward, our neighbors and communities close to the University of Houston.”
The Harvey committee will exist throughout the 2017-18 academic year, Menda said. It has not diverted any resources from other projects but has received additional funding from the University.
“It’s hard at the moment to know how many volunteers we’ll need, because some projects may require five, 10, et cetera, so it’s something that is still being worked on,” Kaesebier said.
The logistics for this project will be decided on a case-to-case basis, Kaesebier said, and they will post volunteer opportunities as they are scheduled.
“We want our communities to know that we are committed to this project,” Kaesebier said. “We do not want them to think that we are shifting away our focus. We want them to know MVP is with them.”
At this time, MVP does not plan to fundraise for Harvey relief, but it encourages students who are in need to apply for the Cougar Emergency Fund, Kasebier said.
Biotechnology junior Rahul Dsilva said that if given the opportunity, he would volunteer with MVP.
“One of my professors was affected pretty badly. She lost her apartment, and that’s never a good thing for anybody,” Dsilva said. “It’s a well-sought project. A lot of energy and time will be spent out there, and somebody needs to go help.”
The committee has been confirmed through the academic year, Kasebier said, but depending on how recovery efforts progress, MVP will try to extend the extra funding for the project through the following year.
“MVP is really committed to a sustainable approach in helping our communities recover from Harvey,” Kaesebier said. “We want to help folks rebuild their lives long after the national media has been gone. We are looking into neighborhood cleanups (and) distributing donations. We want to get this community voice, where people ask for help.”