From the Field

After Hurricane Harvey, families begin recovery in Texas

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, World Vision began working with partners in the Houston area to distribute relief supplies. Families across the region came for help, and we spoke with several about their experience with the storm. Read some of their stories here, and continue to pray for them and everyone affected by the storm.

Discover families’ stories from Hurricane Harvey:

Lilly and Jose

First came the pounding rain, pooling in the driveway, inching its way up the porch.

Rolled-up blankets couldn’t keep Hurricane Harvey’s floodwaters from seeping into the Houston, Texas, home of Lilly Rosales and her husband, Jose Linares, on the night of August 26. They quickly discussed what to do as water reached their ankles — then their knees.

As Lilly clutched their baby boy, Alexavier, Jose exclaimed, “We’ve got to go!”

Lilly wrapped their 3-month-old son in a blanket and placed him in a bucket. She covered it with a trash bag, leaving room for his tiny face, and grabbed the diaper bag.

Amid the early morning darkness, the family drove away in their van that stalled after only a few blocks. By this time, the water in the street was chest high. They waded to a nearby restaurant; from there, Lilly’s uncle drove them to meet up with relatives outside the flooded area.

“I was crying,” Lilly recalled later. “I was like, ‘I can’t believe this. That’s our home. I don’t have our baby’s stuff. I only have one can of formula and not even eight diapers.’

“I felt like I was in a movie.”

The couple is far from the final scene, but their story shows glimmers of hope in Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath. Three days after their rescue and after the waters receded, Lilly returned to her neighborhood to Faith Memorial Baptist Church, where the community had begun collecting clothing, food, and other items to help families like Lilly’s.

World Vision supplemented these resources with two shipments of relief supplies, including diapers, Family Food Kits, air mattresses, pillows, lanterns, paper towels, and cleaning products.

Lilly received packages of diapers and baby supplies, a hygiene kit, and other items. The money she saves will go toward repairing her home, she says.

For days, Lilly, Jose, and relatives returned to the house and hauled out everything, then removed buckled flooring and soaked sheet rock. The house is owned by Lilly’s great-grandmother, who also lives there and was evacuated separately.

Up and down the street, heaps of sofas, tables, mattresses, cribs, electronics, books, toys, clothing, photos — lifetimes of belongings and memories — steadily grow at the curb.

There are moments, Lilly says, where “I just want to break down and cry. I think, ‘What’s the point?’ I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do to get back up. Especially for my baby.”

Jose, too, says he struggles at times but always comes to the same conclusions: “We’re going to get through this. … This is our home.”

That home, with its yellow-green living room walls and spongy floorboards, is baking in Houston’s 90-degree heat and humidity. Jose has construction skills but is out of work, so he plans to repair the home as best he can with help from family and others.

“Everybody is offering to help others, even when they have nothing or so little,” Lilly says. “There are lot of people going to one another’s house. They say, ‘You need help? I got you.’ That’s what it takes.”

On a wall near the front door, a framed artwork depicts a border of flowers, birdhouses, and vines. In the center is one word: HOPE.

That’s the name of Lilly’s great-grandmother, but also reflects what families in Houston need during the long recovery.

“It’ll take time,” Lilly says. “We’ll get through it.”

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Rodriguez family

Five-year-old Vincent Miniel found a toy bat that wasn't destroyed by Hurricane Harvey's floodwaters. But much of the front yard is filled with debris from the house, so there's not a lot of room to play. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)
Five-year-old Vincent Miniel found a toy bat that wasn’t destroyed by Hurricane Harvey’s floodwaters. But much of the front yard is filled with debris from the house, so there’s not a lot of room to play. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)

On the day Vincent turned 5 years old, his home was 2 feet under water.

No one in the household — not his mom, Crystal Rodriguez, nor her parents, Rudy and Linda Rodriguez — knew that at the time. Two days before the little boy’s August 28 birthday, the family left their Houston, Texas, home for higher ground when Hurricane Harvey’s floodwaters reached the curb level.

“I thought, ‘It’ll rain today, and it’ll be over. In a couple days, we’ll be back,’” says Linda, who works as a detention officer for the sheriff’s department.

But in the hours after they left, floodwaters rapidly rose. Neighbors kept the family updated as the storm swamped homes, with water rising to chest level in the street.

The Rodriguez family, who had taken refuge at Linda’s parents’ home, could only wait it out, not knowing the fate of their home.

“We just prayed,” Linda says. To cope, Crystal says, “I stayed numb.”

Several days later, the floodwaters receded enough for them to return. Beyond their soaked sofa, they found warped tables, soggy mattresses, and buckled flooring. Water pooled inside chests of drawers and kitchen cabinets. Vincent’s sandbox had floated from the backyard to the neighbor’s front yard.

Faith Memorial Baptist Church, a longtime presence in the lower-income neighborhood, is working with World Vision to distribute hygiene kits, Women’s Hope Kits, air mattresses, bottled water, air conditioners, and a variety of other items.

The church is 1 of 20 sites in the Houston area, most of them churches, that serve as distribution points for relief supplies delivered by World Vision to help families piece their lives back together.

World Vision sent at least 19 semi-truck loads of supplies, plus one pickup load, within the first two weeks after Hurricane Harvey. More than 45,000 people are expected to benefit from the deliveries so far.

Crystal says that Vincent, a bright-eyed, energetic boy who loves to play T-ball, is too young to fully comprehend why his family can’t return home for a while.

“He says, ‘But we were just living here,’” she says. “I told him, ‘I know, baby. I know.’”

Faith Memorial Baptist Church, which has been organizing volunteer crews to help swamped local families clean out their homes, served nearly 1,000 families in the days following the hurricane, Pastor Andrew Johnson says.

More can be done, but “it’s going to take us coming together as one family in Jesus’ name to make it happen,” Johnson told his church on Sunday. “Though this is a disaster and a catastrophe, it’s actually an opportunity for us to be the hands and feet of Jesus — for us to show the world who it is we serve and who it is we worship.”

On the Rodriguez’s street, volunteers from churches and organizations as far away as Indiana and Maryland helped homeowners empty their homes, leaving overflowing mounds of damaged furniture, mattresses, clothes, books, stuffed animals, construction debris, and other items in front yards.

“It looks like a war zone,” says Linda, gazing up the street. Her loss includes two new bedroom sets, delivered less than a month ago, and cabinets and appliances from her “dream kitchen.”

More than 40 people — half of them friends and family, half of them volunteers they had never met before — helped the Rodriguez family lug away belongings, rip out flooring, and remove sheet rock.

Linda says she felt blessed to receive help, though she told the work crew not to throw away an “irreplaceable” closet door.

The white door had doubled as a growth chart for seven of her eight grandchildren. Over the years, they stood tall while she marked the date, their heights, and their names. Ironically and sadly, a new measure — the height of the floodwater — now also is visible on the door.

The door reminds Linda of the swift passage of time and the importance of family. Asked how she is handling a life turned upside down, she gave a weary smile.

“I’m running out of tears,” Linda says. “I’ll keep praying.”

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Pedro’s family

Pedro Jimenez, left, and his 2-year-old son, JuanDavid, receive some Duplos, among other relief supplies they were given at Parkway Fellowship Church in Katy, Texas, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)
Pedro Jimenez, left, and his 2-year-old son, JuanDavid, receive some Duplos, among other relief supplies they were given at Parkway Fellowship Church in Katy, Texas, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)

One family evacuated by a military truck in the face of Hurricane Harvey, and they still await the fate of their home.

They received relief supplies at Parkway Fellowship, who partnered with World Vision to distribute an array of relief supplies, including pillows, blankets, air mattresses, bottled water, hygiene kits, toilet paper, and Women’s Hope Kits filled with toiletries.

Pedro Jimenez, his wife Nuris Laviera, and their 2-year-old son, JuanDavid, live on the first floor of an evacuated apartment. They are staying with family temporarily in Katy, a city west of Houston, and the site of Parkway Fellowship.

Authorities told them they would be out of their home for a month. As for what they will find upon their return, “we don’t know for sure but are expecting the worst,” Nuris says. Beyond potential damage inside their apartment, “I’m thinking maybe we lost two cars,” Pedro says.

The family received a cartload of supplies at Parkway Fellowship, calling it “a big blessing,” especially since Pedro can’t work with his construction tools stuck in the apartment.

“Of course, we are worried, but we’re happy to be safe,” Nuris says. “Thank you, God, for that.”

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Orellana family

Milton and Linet Orellana and their two daughters, 10-year-old Valerie, and 3-year-old Natalie came to a distribution of relief supplies at Parkway Fellowship Church in Katy, Texas, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)
Milton and Linet Orellana and their two daughters, 10-year-old Valerie, and 3-year-old Natalie came to a distribution of relief supplies at Parkway Fellowship Church in Katy, Texas, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. (©2017 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)

Milton and Linet Orellana’s family recall how their cell phones buzzed with text alerts from the National Weather Service at the height of Hurricane Harvey.

The alerts came every few minutes, sometimes every few seconds, warning about flash floods and tornadoes and delivering an urgent message: “Take shelter now.”

Although the family — including daughters Valerie, 10, and Natalie, 3 — lives in a second-floor apartment, they didn’t escape the storm’s wrath because of their damaged roof.

“It started leaking, making everything wet,” Linet says. In between alerts, they tried to protect their belongings before another tornado warning sent them scurrying into a closet or bathroom for safety.

When they later ventured outside, “everything you see is water,” Linet says. “Two blocks down, I saw cars with water up to the roof.”

Inside their apartment, another problem has emerged.

“Mold,” Valerie says. “That’s worse than just the flood.”

They also picked up supplies at Parkway Fellowship and said they appreciated the help because local stores were running low on inventory, and Linet is out of work as a housecleaner. Milton does maintenance for an apartment complex.

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