People often ask those of us who spend most of our time on project how we do it without getting depressed. From the outside the world of disaster response seems to consist only of suffering and loss. Obviously, disaster-affected communities have a hard time, that’s why we come in to help – but it is not the whole story. While we might live in some of the worst situations local people have experienced, somehow it brings out the best in people. It is heartwarming to see a community come together. Here in the Catskills we are fed every day, along with any and all other volunteers and local people who were affected by the flooding. People are donating food, giving their time in the kitchen and even serving the food to the hundreds who come each evening. One church estimates that it is feeding three hundred, down a hundred on last week.
A house in the village where our base is has been given over, rent-free, to a family whose house is uninhabitable. It is a second home and the woman who owns it contacted a friend in the village and authorized him to allow anyone who needed a place to stay to move right in.
This is a difficult disaster to grasp the true scale of. Many homes appear unaffected save for the tide marks left by receding waters. Inside is destroyed but from the street often the only thing out of place are the debris piles, growing as people haul whatever was damaged out for collection. Thankfully, due to the location, which while rural is just a few hours from some large population centers, we have had a great volunteer response and are not now accepting new applications unless we decide to extend the current timeline.
Not only do volunteers get to come and help these communities get back on their feet but they are coming to a beautiful part of the world in one of its most glorious seasons. The leaves are turning from green to red in front of my eyes, every day the landscape has changed a little more. There are autumn flowers everywhere and the farm shop I sit in every day in order to access the internet is bursting with bright, delicious-looking produce. I changed the header of the site from the grey, sucking mud of a flooded street to the yellow flowers on sale in front of the farm. Don’t think there isn’t work to be done or that these communities weren’t hit hard, but it would be a waste of their stunning scenery not to give you a couple of shots of what this area is famous for, and what the affected towns and villages will look like again after the hard work of recovery is done.