On August 25, 2017, Harvey, a Category 4 hurricane, landed on the Texas Gulf Coast. During that time, an entire year’s worth of rain fell on the greater Houston area within less than a week. According to the National Hurricane Center, these rains caused catastrophic flooding and 68 deaths, the largest number of direct deaths from a tropical cyclone in that state since 1919.
The eye of Hurricane Harvey passed directly over Rockport, Texas with registered winds at 142 miles per hour. Tornados and strong winds tore through homes and communities, destroying everything in its path. Broken homes were abandoned, and surrounding areas were left in crumbled ruins. The damage was severely devastating, and resulted in 35% of the community being destroyed. An estimated 30-40% will never be rebuilt.
Tzu Chi USA volunteers provided emergency relief funds to a few thousand families in the Rockport and surrounding areas in order to assist in the reconstruction of their homes and their lives. The volunteer team drove through communities across Texas, from Corpus to Rockport, bringing supplies and additional aid to assist with daily needs. 500-600 monetary gift cards were distributed in order to begin the rebuilding process and to begin the recovery process quickly. Rockport then received a total of $124,200 for the families of 207 first-responders who were there to assist the community after the eye of the storm had passed.
As of October 31st of 2017, $7,010,700 have been delivered to Hurricane Harvey survivors, providing assistance to 35,267 residents and 12,095 families of Houston and surrounding counties. In addition to financial aid, volunteer doctors offered free medical check-ups, dental care, and acupuncture treatments to help relieve people’s stress.
When Stephen Huang, Executive Director of Global Tzu Chi Volunteers arrived to Rockport with the disaster relief team, he learned that Charles Wax, the town’s mayor, had previously provided military disaster relief aid to Taiwan after the major earthquake in 1999.