Community connection is what brings people together across all cultures and nations. It is the invisible tie that binds us to one other and is even more evident in times of need. As we reflect on things to be thankful for during this season of Thanksgiving here in the US, community connection comes to mind. This call to support our friends and neighbors can be seen throughout the world. Our Program Instructors have seen first hand the positive effects that come when people work together.

From Amy Sherif our Arabic Program Instructor

“During Hurricane Harvey, all Houstonians were eyes and ears monitoring every detail of the storm about to hit landfall.  With flood warnings telling us to seek higher shelter coupled with tornado warnings instructing us to shelter in the lowest possible place, we were running up and down.  We were able to host a family that was forced to evacuate.  A couple days following the hurricane, while lying in bed I remembered the first time I faced a natural disaster in Cairo.  It was October 1992 and a 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit Cairo, which resulted in around 500 deaths, thousands injured, and left close to half a million homeless.  Egypt had not been hit by an earthquake in decades, so the effects were catastrophic.  For several weeks, Egyptians watched as buildings collapsed.  Day and night the sounds of ambulances could be heard throughout the city.  Like any city throughout the world,  it’s the response of the people that matter.  Through rescue operations, the hosting of displaced family members and friends, and contributions to charities, the cities rebuild.  Coming back to my experience through Hurricane Harvey, it was the community standing hand in hand, seeing religious and recreational centers transforming into shelters, and local restaurants and outreaches providing much needed food and provisions, we saw community in action.”

From Anne Kaar our French Program Instructor

Natural disasters effect every nation.  Recently, during a severe storm in the south of France, a tornado destroyed a town near Toulon.  When disasters like this strike, fire departments and the surrounding cities are the first to respond. In addition, there is the Sécurité Civile, which is part of the French Ministry of the Interior, and the army reserves.  France has lately seen disasters come through terrorist attacks.  In these times, the people of France really come together to support one another.  Homes are opened to neighbors and strangers alike to help them find safety.  There is a strong sense of being “one”–one community, one country, one people–almost like a family.  You will see more French flags flying, which is unique in that French people are not generally outwardly patriotic.  During winter seasons, charities will go throughout cities like Paris, and visit the homeless on the streets to provide extra clothing or blankets.  Recently with the increase in refugees, shelters have become a safe place for them to find refuge while waiting for their status being reviewed and for medical aid being facilitated.  Donation sites can be found throughout the city where people can donate clothing and food.  In Angers, France, on Monday nights a food truck serves meals near the train station.  Since 2016, a law was passed that prohibits shopping centers and supermarkets from throwing away food that is close to its expiration date.  Instead, the food is donated to food backs such as the Banques Alimentaires or soup kitchens.

  From Daniela Ochoa González our Spanish Program Instructor

In Mexico, The Mexican Food Bank Network, or BAMX, works to coordinate food collection throughout Mexico’s 54 food banks, and works to distribute to the people who need it the most.  Thousands of volunteers and workers collaborate within their network to support areas in need.  Most recently during the earthquakes that devestated much of Mexico, there work became even more crucial towards helping in providing much needed aid and support to those impacted.  The northern branches have been instrumental in helping the southern branches.  The current post-crisis stage is the most difficult, as support begins to fade following the initial impact.  To learn more about the Mexican Food Bank Network visit their website at www.bamx.org or www.bapuebla.org.mx

From Mandy Gauld our English Program Instructor

Growing up in Houston, I have lived through many a hurricane.  The hurricanes, as well as the accompanying flooding are part of life in Houston.  Neighbors truly do help one another in times of disaster.  From bringing food and water to sharing power generators, even opening their homes to one another, it truly is one of the most heartwarming things to see in Houston.

From Vita Tang our Chinese Program Instructor

I recall my experience in the 921 Earthquake in Taiwan.  Along with making a monetary donation towards meeting needs, I decided to go to volunteer for the rescue support.  IT was very touched by what I saw and really felt when we put all of our hearts together, the force we can create is unbelievable.  Many roads, many bridges, and many buildings were destroyed, so I was expecting to see a chaotic, disordered, and devastated situation.  That was not the case.  Because the survivors felt so very fortunate, everyone jumped in to begin the clean up quickly after the quake.  If I had not seen it with my own eye, I would not have believed the incredible recovery rate within such a short time.  There was likely official disaster centers in Taiwan and China as well as soldiers that are usually very responsive in the rebuilding process as well, but many Buddhist Temples and spiritual groups are also very good at organizing shelters, volunteers and collecting donations too.