Posts Tagged ‘disaster’

Preserving Human Dignity of Workers in Bangladesh and Beyond

Monday, January 6th, 2014

David Suter/New York Times

Msgr. Kevin Sullivan and Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, responded to The New York Times update on the tragic aftermath of world’s worst garment industry disaster in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,100 workers and maimed and impoverished countless more.

Check out their letter below.

Join us in ensuring “that the dignity of working people doesn’t end up on the clearance rack.”

“We recently traveled to Dhaka, Bangladesh, to meet with survivors of the Rana Plaza factory collapse and their families,” Msgr. Sullivan and Mr. Applebaum wrote in their recently published New York Times Letter to the Editor.

“Your article echoes what they told us. They emphasized the need for greater financial compensation for their suffering. And they warned that unsafe conditions in garment factories could lead to more tragedies.

Americans regularly buy apparel made in Bangladesh. Responsible shopping here can create solidarity with workers there. Consumers can support retailers and brands that have joined the Accord on Fire and Building Safety to improve Bangladesh’s garment factories.

Workers who make the clothes Americans buy and wear cannot just be viewed as costs to control. That race to the bottom could only result in more lost lives.

All of us must help minimize the human casualties of our global economy and ensure that the dignity of working people doesn’t end up on the clearance rack.”

Going door to door, tent to shed, to serve those still suffering from Superstorm Sandy.

Friday, July 26th, 2013

By Alice Kenny

Although nine months have passed since Hurricane Sandy pushed ocean waves down the streets of Staten Island’s Midland Beach, upending cars, flooding homes and destroying nearly everything in its wake, some residents of this seaside community still live in makeshift tents and sheds.  Some even sleep on park benches.

Many still need assistance with basic needs such as food and shelter. This includes children, the elderly, and new immigrants. Nine months into this disaster and many believe they have nowhere to turn for help.

A number of local volunteer organizations have been created or expanded to address these needs. “Every night a volunteer goes out in search of those still in need of a meal and a place to sleep,” says Catholic Charities Community Development Coordinator Lourdes Ferrer.

Over three hundred Sandy survivors already receive support from Catholic Charities disaster case managers stationed at Catholic Charities’ office at 120 Anderson Avenue in Staten Island. But rather than just waiting for Sandy survivors to come to Catholic Charities, disaster case managers also go to them.

Catholic Charities manages the New York State Disaster Case Management Program. Designed to streamline support and avoid frustration and confusion, the Disaster Case Management program whittles down the complex system of disaster support by providing survivors with a single point of contact to access a broad range of resources. This allows people still reeling from the loss of jobs and homes to avoid the need to search out multiple organizations that might respond to their various needs. Instead, survivors can relate their experiences and submit their documentation to a single, local disaster case manager who guides them through the recovery process.

Many residents of Staten Island never before had to ask for social service help and were unsure of the value of these services.  They initially hoped they could do everything themselves.

So Catholic Charities teamed up with local “hubs,” ad hoc service centers that sprang up in neighborhoods hit hardest by the hurricane to provide food, water, clothing, supplies and services, educate the community and reach more of those in need.   Case managers from Catholic Charities now help staff the Staten Island Alliance office on Colony Ave, enrolling many new clients into the program and meeting with existing clients.  Case managers are also able to meet with clients in their homes.  To extend these services, Catholic Charities disaster case managers are preparing to staff another hub in the New Dorp neighborhood in Staten Island. By meeting staff at home, in local hubs and Catholic Charities offices, hurricane survivors can feel comfortable in familiar surroundings close to home among people they know.

“People think that because so many months have passed, that everything is back to ‘normal’,” Lourdes said. “But the reality is there are communities in Staten Island that are still recovering and struggling to accept the new ‘normal’.”

People Say Hurricane Sandy Is Over. It’s Nowhere Near Over.

Monday, March 11th, 2013

 By Alice Kenny

Thirty-foot-high waves crashed through Evelyn’s street “so high, so fast that if we’d stayed another minute we would have been trapped inside,” she said, still breathing fast four months later as she related the event.

Never had Evelyn imagined seeing the ocean out the windows of her Seavers Avenue home, she said.  After all, the two-story semi attached brick and shingled house she  shared with her sons, Christopher, 14, and Nicholas, 18, was surrounded by fellow semi-attached homes that stretched more than a mile to the nearest beach.

But on the evening of October 29, Hurricane Sandy whipped the mighty Atlantic as it commandeered Staten Island roads, washed away homes, trucks and businesses and destroyed nearly everything Evelyn and her family owned.

“People think it’s over,” she said, recalling that night and all the tough days that have come since then.  “It’s nowhere near over.”

She, her sons, and their two dogs, Pluto and Poppy, fought their way through the waves.  They dove into their 2000 Ford Explorer.  And they escaped, literally, with nothing more than the clothes on their back.  Salt water, dead fish and debris filled the basement and first floor of their former home.

If it were not for help from volunteers who drove nearly 1,000 miles from Tennessee to lend a hand coupled with donations from St. Margaret Mary Church and Catholic Charities, she could never have rebuilt her home, she said.

Fortunately, St. Margaret Mary Church in Staten Island gave her sheet rock, insulation, doors, compound, nails, and tape.  They also gave her a $500 gift card to Home Depot from Catholic Charities.

“I now had everything needed to set me up,” she said.

But it was only a start.

This single mom had no money to pay for the rehab.  When she returned to work a week after the storm, her employer, an insurance billing company, told her not to come back, she said.  She could not qualify for unemployment benefits, she added, because the company denied firing her, telling the New York State Unemployment Office that they instead told her to “take all the time she needs to recover.”  Meanwhile, her flood and homeowners insurance still have not processed her claims.

So, while she and her sons squeezed into a one-bedroom apartment paid for, temporarily, by FEMA, she went online seeking help.  On a Facebook site set up for Sandy Survivors she came across five men from Tennessee.  They were looking, they wrote, for a dry place to stay in Staten Island so they could volunteer their rehab skills.   Although the basement and first floor of her Seavers Avenue home had been destroyed, the second floor was dry, she wrote back, and they were welcome to it.

When the Tennessee volunteers arrived – “three guys in their 40s and two guys old enough to be my father” – they discovered that she was one of the only neighbors to have the rehab materials they needed to get to work.  So they chose her home.

For more than a week they worked 12-hour days, tearing out sodden insulation and sheet rock and mucking out flooring.  Then they rebuilt the walls and floors using the brand new building supplies that St. Margaret Mary Church and Catholic Charities had given her.

Her story, however, is far from finished.

“People are scavenging for building materials, people who have it much worse than me,” she said.  “It’s a community; it’s not just me.”

Would you like to help?

Text SANDY to 85944 to make a one-time $10 donation.

Day Laborers help Hurricane Sandy Victims

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

By Alice Kenny

Fifteen volunteers from Obreros Unidos De Yonkers, a group of day laborers in the Yonkers area served by Catholic Charities, accompanied Catholic Charities staff on Sunday, November 18, to help people in the New Dorp neighborhood in a Staten Island whose homes were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.  Donning work gloves and masks they responded to requests, moving from house to house to break down walls, remove crumbling sheet rock and pull out destroyed furniture.

Catholic Charities has an ongoing involvement with Obreros Unidos De Yonkers, a group of approximately 300 day laborers in the Yonkers area. Through this program, Catholic Charities educates workers on employment rights and responsibilities in order to prevent exploitation and abuse. Catholic Charities also assists in the collection of unpaid wages, helps workers get access to healthcare services, provides emergency food, and offers English language and computer skills instruction.