Many people have heard my tales of when Barton and I moved up to Raleigh after Katrina. It was an eerie time since all of my friends in Tuscaloosa were involved with hurricane relief efforts whether it was working a shelter, providing food and water or working with community officials. Yet, there was a scramble to provide needs and organize community relief efforts, with many breakdowns in communication.
Last Wednesday, April 27, 2011 tornados devastated the Southeast, and in particular the city of Tuscaloosa. When I found out the extent of damage, immediately I began calling friends and family to make sure they had survived the damage. Literally the neighborhood where I had lived has been decimated, and even now there are six families that I am still trying to locate.
How difficult it is being several states away, both in wanting to be a part of the direct relief efforts, yet realizing that whether I am there tomorrow or in a month, the needs of recovery will still be ever present.
Yet, what could I provide here- where I am? My friends in North Carolina were asking what I could do, maybe even wrangle donation efforts here. Several friends in Alabama wanting to volunteer didn’t know where to go or were turned away. Immediately I set up a web page on my website (http://cuttersword.com/tuscaloosa-relief.html
) that included links to news sites, volunteer locations, Facebook sites, missing persons list from The Tuscaloosa news (http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/
) , and ideas that I had when I go down the beginning of June.
Just yesterday I was telling a group that my specialty is using the power of writing with connecting the community, and I have seen first hand how social media can be used in the wake of a community disaster. Two Facebook pages- Help Tuscaloosa (https://www.facebook.com/helptuscaloosa
) and T-Town Tornado Relief (https://www.facebook.com/pages/T-Town-Tornado-Relief-Team/198990593...
) are able to communicate volunteer and donation needs in real time. This allows distribution of volunteers and needs to the most immediate areas of the community. Shelters, schools, and volunteer stations are better able to communicate their needs in real-time and work together to fulfill those requests.
Immediately, families and friends were trying to find each other on Facebook. It took 48-36 hours after the tornado for social media to be used in this particular way of community volunteer and donation distribution efforts.
The challenge of social media is connection and in some cases electricity (although many are using mobile phones to post updates. Several posts from friends were halted mid-sentence to be completed when they were able to connect back on.
There is no doubt in my mind that social media can be used in conjunction with other community organizing efforts to assist in providing care to its citizens in a time of crisis.
Please take a moment out of your day today to pray for all those affected by the tornados across the country and support the relief efforts of a community in need.