Hurricane Harvey flooded the streets of Houston so badly that boats were able to travel across them. (Photo by Karl Spencer/Getty Images)

Two huge hurricanes cause physical and emotional chaos throughout the country

A disaster is defined as: “a calamitous event, especially one occurring suddenly and causing great loss of life, damage or hardship,” according to Merriam-Webster.

The simple definition above holds a great deal of personal meaning for millions of people across the United States. In the last few weeks, Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma have wreaked havoc across the nation. Millions of children have been prevented from going to school, millions of homes have been destroyed and millions of families’ lives have been altered.

The APU mission statement for service states that “service is at the heart of our local and international outreach, missions and service-learning endeavors.”

Matthew Browning, the Associate Vice President of Internationalization at APU, believes that the APU community has a call to assist those in need, both near and far.

“When something good is okay with us but not for someone else, no matter how far away they are, it is our human obligation, especially as Christ followers, to come along side and help,” Browning said. “That’s what people do when they care for others; they think beyond themselves.”

Beyond the emotional damage that has been done as a result of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the physical damage and death toll has been catastrophic.

According to an article written by Eva Ruth Moravec in the Washington Post, the death count has reached over 80 and is still growing.

“Texas officials said Thursday [Sept. 14] that they believe at least 82 people died as a result of Hurricane Harvey and the intense flooding it brought to Houston and coastal areas, although it could take weeks to determine the exact death toll,” Moravec wrote.

Furthermore, apart from the death toll, daily amenities have been difficult to come by.

“Two weeks after the eye of Harvey hit the Texas coast, about 3,900 homes and facilities remain without power,” Moravec said. “The state’s water structures are improving, but 77 boil-water notices remain in effect, 19 water systems are down and 31 wastewater systems remain offline.”

Hurricane Irma has also taken its toll on the residents of Florida.

In a different article written by Patricia Sullivan, Mark Berman and Katie Zezima in the Washington Post, it was shared that on Wednesday, Sep. 13, “more than 40 percent of Florida still lacked electricity, and for some of them, the lights might not come back on for days or even weeks.”

“Going by the Homeland Security estimates,” the authors wrote. “At one point Irma had knocked out power to one out of every 22 Americans.”

According to the article, residents in western Florida should have power back by Sept. 22.

At one point, in Cape Coral Shores in southwest Florida, there was an assisted care facility that lost power for three days. The facility houses patients with dementia and other memory impairments.

“Power in the facility went out, and it stayed out, even as homes and business all around it saw their lights come back on,” the authors wrote. “As the indoor temperature climbed to the mid-80s Wednesday [Sept. 13] humidity made the hard-surfaced floors slick with condensation. Patients gathered in a small day room to catch a slight breeze from screened windows.

APU has provided a variety of support for hurricane victims. Between this weekend and next, the Center for Student Action is sending out approximately 180 students to assist in the relief efforts. Teams are working alongside APU alumni that are directly involved in the affected places.

“We provided monetary support to two different places,” Browning said. “One of the alumni we’re working with is a doctor, and he was able to get medicine [with the money we provided].”

Beyond money for medication and other basic necessities, APU provided for other alumni that had specific needs in mind such as baby formula, clothing, etc.

“At the end of the day, this is what we want to be about,” Browning said. “This is a picture of what ‘stop talking, start acting’ is like. In this case, we believe that people in need have an opportunity to be cared for.”