Today’s blog is about heroes, hope, inspiration and healing for all those affected by Hurricane Harvey. One of the many heroes is McCall McPherson, a new friend, who I met in person for the first time at a nutrition business event just last month. McCall solves complex thyroid issues, and practices functional medicine and integrative psychiatry in Austin, Texas.
Here is a snippet from the video on KXAN where she shares her inspiration and plans to use social media to coordinate thousands of flood rescues:
When McCall McPherson and her husband Casey heard about all the flooding in Houston, they wanted to help. Casey decided he and a friend would drive a boat down south and try to rescue stranded Hurricane Harvey survivors. But McCall wondered how she could help while still caring for her two toddlers at home.
“I created a way to connect rescuers to people in need because my husband was about to be a rescuer and I had no idea where to send him,” said McCall.
McCall created an interactive map online for flood victims to pin their location if they needed help. She then linked that map to a Facebook page to communicate with people about the rescues, getting locations and phone numbers. “We’re in real-time, so it’s [posts like] ‘family holding three babies above their head, water up to neck.’ And you’re telling [rescuers] get there, get there, get there,” explains McCall.
A few friends and thousands of strangers started acting as dispatchers, connecting victims with rescuers, including the Coast Guard and self-proclaimed “Cajun Navy.” The page that started with McCall and two other people, now has more than 2,300 members.
You can read the full story and watch the inspiring video clip on the KXAN site and find the page #Harvey911 here.
It’s called Houston Area Harvey Rescue Group: for victims and boat rescuers, and this story of hope and helping is so special to me because I’m honored to be a very small part of it. I am one of those “dispatchers” connecting victims with rescuers and I’ve been doing it from afar i.e. from Sydney, Australia. I was inspired to jump in and help as soon as McCall started it, wanting to be of service but not knowing how I could help from so far away. As soon as I saw all the desperate cries for help on the social media sites of the local TV stations I knew I could try and help connect them with the volunteer rescue teams McCall and the volunteers were coordinating. Myself and a colleague in the UK, Kiran Ram, who works with women helping them balance their hormones, worked the “night shift” helping as best we could.
These are a few of the kinds of cries for help we responded to: a brother’s request for help for his sister who was under water with her kids; a son desperate to rescue his disabled papa; a mother’s plea for help for her family in above-knee-deep-water – a 2-month old, a 3 year old, a 6 year old, a 9 year old, husband and father in law; an elderly couple whose phone was dying, had no water and were running out of food. And what joy and relief to then hear from these complete strangers that their loved ones were safe!
A volunteer dispatcher, Monica (and someone I feel I know like a dear friend even though we have never met), shares this in the group:
Part of our work is that moment in being able to track down and inform a loved one or other concerned citizen that the person(s) they are worried about are safe. The rescues are obviously the cake. But that moment of “YAY” exchanged on the other end of the mission between volunteers who never gave up and family and friends who never gave up on another person(s) — that’s the most delicious icing on the cake.
Working with all these amazing volunteers who just give-give-give, has been an amazing experience. It shows we can all do something no matter where we are!
I’d like to share two more inspiring stories about heroes from Hurricane Harvey.
In this CBS series called A More Perfect Union they highlight examples of people coming together to show that what unites us is far greater than what divides us. One such person is Jim McIngvale:
Countless people have demonstrated extraordinary acts of humanity to help flood victims. Already a local hero, Jim McIngvale – known as Mattress Mack – has become a national symbol of hope in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
On Sunday night he welcomed hundreds of people looking for refuge into his Gallery Furniture Stores. He also sent out trucks into the flood looking for those in need of safe passage
“I’m part capitalist and part social worker and this is what I like to do,” he said.
And finally, Catalina and her family (and countless others like this) are heroes for their kindness to neighbors in trouble. Her father says: “what do you do when there’s nothing you can do, but you can’t do nothing? You do what you can” – and you offer warm soup to your neighbors. ABC13 Houston says: “Thank you to 5-year-old Catalina and her family for being #HoustonStrong and offering hot soup to neighbors.” You can watch the heart-warming and tummy-warming video here
I’d like to end with a part of this message that McCall posted in the #Harvey911 rescue group a few days ago:
I did a TEDx talk this year around the concept of us changing the world not by our professions, but by our ability to remain tethered to the humanity of every person we encounter. After spending 60 some hours in rescue efforts connecting strangers, some completely around to globe, you have absolutely solidified this concept in my mind. We are changing the city of Houston by being tethered to this despite exhausted, sleep deprivation, pain, hunger, stress, and hopelessness, to the humanity of those people standing in waist high water, of women who have been trapped on their roof with their babies, elderly in nursing homes, and parents literally holding their children above rising water.
This is so true but this rescue effort is just the start, next is the healing and rebuilding. McCall is now gathering a group of volunteers and they are in the early stages of planning a benefit concert for the Harvey victims. The actual benefit will take place on September 23rd in Austin, Texas. I’ll share details here as soon as I have more information about the event. The band Alpha Rev, which Casey is a part of, will be performing.
Thank you McCall McPherson for your vision, courage and inspiration! I am proud to call you my friend! Thank you Casey and all of you rescuers in the boats! And thank you to everyone involved in this crowd-sourced rescue group and everyone else helping all these families who are in need – people like Jim McIngvale and Catalina and her family! People offering meals, places to stay, helping with clean-up and doing their thing to help.
And to every single person impacted by Hurricane Harvey – we’ve got you and you will get through this! As McCall likes to say: #StrengthInNeighbors. It’s a beautiful thing!
I’ll be back with more on the fundraiser and more on how we can help both the rescuers and those who have been rescued with nutritional support for the lack of sleep, and the anxiety, fear, worry and trauma they have all been exposed to.
Please share your ideas of how we can help these communities. And if you are in one of the affected communities let us know how we can help.
If you have an inspiring story please share it too. We need all the hope and inspiration we can get right now!
UPDATE September 9th 2017: Hurricane Harvey Benefit, September 23rd, 2017, Austin, TX
I’d like to share this wonderful message from McCall McPherson, a huge hero of the Harvey rescues:
When tragedy strikes oftentimes we can feel helpless, leading to inaction. More than anything, this crowdsourced rescue campaign #StrengthInNeightbors has shown me that regular people, despite feeling helpless, can come together and make an enormous impact.
After our efforts rescued thousands, we want to do more and we want you to do it with us. Join us, Alpha Rev, The Wind and The Wave and Suzanna Choffel on Sept 23 at Parlor & Yard to support #Harvey victims long into the future. We have created a unique way to facilitate lasting help and lifelong community by having families and businesses sponsor victims. This means they commit to donating a set amount of funds each month for a year, offering people stability in a time of utter chaos. This also offers a platform to build community and relationships with one another.
Please join us and see what a difference you can truly make in the lives of others, and discover what #StrengthInNeighbors really means.