How Social Workers Play A Role In Disaster Relief

Federally declared disasters have increased by 40% over the last 15 years, according to the Clinical Social Work Journal, and internationally, those numbers are higher. Over just the last two decades, natural disasters have doubled.

In the past, the term “disaster” was poorly defined, leading to emergency response plans that were a one-size-fits-all solution to multifaceted problems. This approach left survivors with fewer options for critical care, especially in the area of mental health.

The National Center for PTSD recently redefined disaster as “a sudden event that has the potential to terrify, horrify, or engender substantial losses for many people simultaneously.” It went on to further define disasters based on type, differentiating between natural and man-made disasters. If more widely accepted, this definition opens the door to opportunities for mental health care in these urgent situations, giving social workers a vital role in relief, recovery, and community resiliency.

Responses in Disaster Relief Social Work

Social workers can offer a variety of mental health services in the immediate aftermath of disasters. Traditional psychotherapy performed by therapists is known for its long-term approach involving session work and trust building, allowing patients to share their trauma narratives. However, when social workers are called up for active disaster relief, their critical and immediate intervention skills are far more necessary for psychological triage. Among them are:

  • Psychological first aid (PFA): PFA assists those in crisis in the aftermath of disaster. It relieves initial distress in an effort to promote short- and long-term coping. This sometimes includes crisis intervention and counseling.
  • Family care: Family social workers help families during crisis. They aid survivors in locating the services they need to overcome post-disaster challenges and repair their lives.
  • Mental health media communications: This field provides voices and vital points of view for under-represented or disadvantaged populations.
  • Resilient community capacity building: This includes creating response plans for various groups.

Above all, the pledge to “do no harm” is the first aspect of every skill.

Assistance During Disaster

Disaster relief programs typically consider the short-term needs of survivors in order to identify the best allocation of resources and promote beneficial coping in the aftermath of tragedy. Social workers assist in these programs in a number of ways, including:

  • Case management: Social workers locate appropriate resources for clients, making sure they receive the services they most require.
  • Case finding: Case finding involves providing survivors with information about the programs available to them. Many are unaware that such services are available or fear stigmatization for participating in them.
  • Outreach: Social workers performing outreach increase program locations in order to allow services to be more accessible.
  • Advocacy: Using connections within various relief organizations, social workers advocate on behalf of clients to qualify them for additional services.
  • Brokering: When acting as a broker, social workers link client systems to the resources they need, fulfilling client needs throughout a multiplicity of programs.

Ultimately, all these methods allow social workers to disseminate information, refer clients to services, and assist them in qualifying for resources in disasters.

Disaster Relief Social Work in Practice

In the U.S., the American Red Cross and the Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program have provided almost half of all social workers participating in disaster relief programs. Depending on the type, duration, and severity of disaster, the challenges and requirements of social work change. When preparing ahead of an impending calamity, social workers may be identifying and organizing supplies, assisting with area and hospital evacuations, or even determining which patients can or should be moved.

During an actual emergency, the needs of the afflicted tend to take precedence over one’s own needs. Moment-to-moment changes in operational requirements contribute to the notion that social workers must remain flexible. They must be able to go where they are needed when they are needed there. The following are some real-world examples of social workers in the midst of disaster.

HURRICANE HARVEY

The residents of Beaumont, Texas, were witness to devastation on a massive scale. In the fall of 2017, Hurricane Harvey descended on Texas and Louisiana, and with it came ruined homes and wrecked lives.

In the end, the storm caused over $125 billion in damage and took 107 lives. The end of the storm was nowhere near the end of the damage. Long-term psychological trauma is a reality for many survivors, especially children. According to a recent survey in the aftermath of a hurricane, nearly 3.4% of respondents were found to have suicidal thoughts. The assessment, response, and counseling of suicidal behaviors were critical concerns that social workers on the ground were able to address.

HURRICANE MARIA

In September 2017, the USNS Comfort, a hospital ship, was deployed to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. The crew included social workers and mental health providers for inpatient and outpatient mental health services. These providers developed protocols to educate the ship’s staff in treating psychiatric patients in addition to treating patients on board.

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES

The Wildfire Mental Health Collaborative was established in Sonoma County after the devastating Tubbs fire to offer survivors tools for dealing with trauma. In the wake of the fires, The Guardian reported that many social workers were funded by grants from FEMA, which allowed them to connect with nearly 70,000 people in Sonoma County alone. These social workers were able to identify and refer thousands to much-needed mental health services.

Research Applications

Further study of the impact of disasters on the mental health of survivors is critical to the practice of disaster relief social work. The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) has emphasized that children are especially vulnerable in disaster conditions, as they take their emotional and behavioral cues from adults.

Anxiety and startle responses, typical symptoms in children that have survived hurricanes, require therapeutic activities to help them cope in healthy ways. According to NASP, other disasters can prompt separate trauma responses. Tornadoes can cause survivor’s guilt due to their suddenness, whereas wildfires, given their advance warning, can cause anxiety. Negative effects stem from displacement, property destruction, and the concerns associated with biological threats to one’s health.

Lessons in the Current Puerto Rican Disaster

A man tries to repair a generator in the street after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez

Those who have worked in disaster areas know that coordination and transport can be difficult, but with the USS Comfort leaving Puerto Rico after admitting less than 300 patients when there is unmet need isn’t a great sign of success. Hurricane Maria made landfall on September 20, 2017. The Comfort, which is essentially a floating specialty hospital arrived in Puerto Rico on October 3rd.  November 8th, the Comfort was restocked with supplies but then departed shortly thereafter for “no apparent reason” after providing outpatient services to somewhere around 1500 patients, according to the DOD.

…”I know that we have capacity. I know that we have the capability to help. What the situation on the ground is … that’s not in my lane to make a decision,” he said. “Every time that we’ve been tasked by (Puerto Rico’s) medical operation center to respond or bring a patient on, we have responded (Captain of the USS Comfort to CNN).”

The death count is still hazy, and there is difficulty in confirming how many died during- or as a result, of the disaster.  One group is doing a funeral home count because information is difficult to obtain. CNN has found through a recent investigation that the death toll appears to be more than 9 times the official government report. 

Coordination on a micro, mezzo and macro level must come from multidisciplinary sectors to problem solve. There are many good people working to rebuild Puerto Rico, but there is far too much apathy, throwing up of hands, and of course, corruption.  Many of the Social Work Grand Challenges are highlighted in Puerto Rico alongside the UN Global Goals.

The Whitefish linemen are making $41-64 per hour to restore power to Puerto Rico’s Grid, but the US government is being billed for more than $319 per hour. Whitefish just called a strike because they have not been paid. This, of course, is having a terrible impact on those who are in the most need.

Where do you come in?  We tend to think of trauma on a psychological level: family members and friends who are missing, grief, anxiety, and depression due to home and job loss as well as connecting with those close to you, each processing the trauma differently.

On the mezzo level, we are working with smaller groups and institutions, of which there are many in disaster or mass casualty events.  Local churches, schools, nonprofits and local chapters of larger scale organizations attempt to unite in the local area to help speed services to those that need it most.  Often this is where many of the challenges lie.  Each organization has their own protocols which may not match up with larger scale efforts of the government or international organizations.

On a practical level, resources are often short on a disaster scene- there are not enough clinicians to meet with clients individually, at least not for more than a few minutes at a time. We revert to what the American Red Cross refers to as “Psychological First Aid”.  Human networks through nodes (like shelters) provide a sense of community and belonging when all is lost, with individuals acting as brokers between networks that previously didn’t have ties.

Ground efforts can be supported by a drone equipped with a camera to see if there is a possibility of reaching a scheduled neighborhood by car, saving countless minutes that matter.  The aerial shots from 3 days ago may no longer be relevant. The water may have receded but now a home has landed there, blocking road access.

The volunteers mapping from satellite images can instantly beam their work from anywhere (tracing homes, schools, possible military vehicle parking areas or temporary helipads) while teams on the ground stare at a water covered road, unsure of what is beneath. Life saving choices are made with options and all levels working together. This is how neighborhood Facebook groups saved lives- they were the eyes on the ground in their own neighborhood that identified who was in the most danger.

Facebook may no longer be the hippest new technology (we are nearing the decade and a half mark) but it is arguably the most ubiquitous and well supported (crashes rarely). Many survivors could make a post but were unable to call or text from the same device. An important component to the multi-level view is the understanding that macro tools like mapping serve micro and mezzo levels.

Being a survivor in an active disaster can quietly morph into anxiety, depression and survivor’s guilt.  Being able to participate in practical support efforts can boost the well being of survivors as well. Friends of friends of friends and influencers in social networks have proven to be incredibly powerful.  It’s what happens when “mixed networks” collide.

As we move to a macro level, there’s a realization that there is a great deal of organic movement in even the best planned days for rescue effort workers.  Do you stop here where the need is great (and went unreported) even though it’s blocking you from reaching the mapped area that your team has already scheduled? This is where technology for good can make the difference.  Depending on your training and background, you may make a different choice.  Who is in charge of the government response, and how do we help change course if it is failing?  How do we know if the efforts match our resources?

The simple answer is that we are there to communicate it with others, on all levels—including the virtual one. This may mean volunteering for rescue efforts, collecting tampons in your hometown, or using your own technology for good by mapping for workers on the ground that are not sure what lies beneath—you are helping to ensure their safety and mental well being.  In turn, you get to pass that knowledge into your own networks.

Rescue to Recovery Stages in a Red Cross Disaster Deployment

Roy was my partner for most of our deployment with Red Cross on the Disaster Mental Health Team in Texas. We spent many hours on the road mostly on our own, with the exception of “ride to the office” or “back to the shelter” caravans, which could be quite crowded as there were few available cars to ferry us all from the staff shelter to Headquarters for the day.

Conversations stayed rooted mostly in the present, even with kids occasionally Face-timing us in the car when a signal would pop up. I know that he’s been a social worker since 1970 and that he has been married nearly as long. Getting to know each other on a disaster mental health deployment is a different way of knowing someone, but knowing them well regardless. Similar relationships are built with the people you sleep a couple of feet from in the staff shelter.

Roy: “Wasn’t there a band people used to like called the Dead Heads? People liked them but I think they’re dead.”

Roy, In response to a question about breakfast: “Right I’ll give you another rotten orange in the morning.

Kristie: “No thank you; that coffee was sufficient.”

Roy, just go ahead and get in the wrong lane again for this right turn.” (Texas “turnarounds” can be a nightmare).

There was the normalcy of the city center recovering, demonstrated through open shops and Home Depot’s parking lot was nearly at capacity. Starbucks opened, there was a carafe in HQ for one of the lucky teams.

Vulnerability and exploitation were visible not far from the city center. Compounding issues plague those who struggled prior to the disaster. Living paycheck to paycheck when there is suddenly no paycheck creates a domino effect of financial disaster. You can only call the companies to beg for mercy if your phone works, if there are enough bars available to connect you. The smell is rising in neighborhoods, and the question, “What is that smell?” was more frequent today. Mold grows rapidly, and you can smell it from the street.  Weeks have passed since the initial disaster, but it is just beginning to unfold for many people do not have flood insurance.

I ended up making a call to the Attorney General’s office regarding landlords who are refusing to remediate damage and demanding rent from those who cannot pay (or live in their home), with the threat of their things being sent to the dumpster. The police were empathetic but said that it’s a civil issue and in a disaster needs to go to the AGs office. So the wet carpet stays with children living inside, and they lack healthy food- maintaining on what looks like a vending machine diet.

There are contractor company scams that further exploit the exploited, and many workers are being brought in from surrounding areas without protective gear (notable lack of face masks) and clearly without reasonable hours or meal contracts.

On the other end of helplessness and anger, I felt in awe of all of the volunteers and what they do. They respond at the crack of dawn to Headquarters to work with a team using colored post it’s on the wall to map progress and hot spots for the day. Knowing that it’s likely that at the end of the day, they will have gotten sidetracked from the need that was directly in front of them, feeling regret for not making it back to the places they know are in desperate need but are now blocked by factors beyond their control.

Headquarters experienced an evacuation- someone screamed, “Get out! Get out of the building!” It turned out to be some off-gassing cones, but everyone went right back to work outside while standing outside the building waiting for clearance entirely unfazed.

Volunteers will talk it out with each other back at the shelter late at night, eating cold leftovers from the ERV (feeding) vehicles. Informal meetings run from their cots which will make a difference the next day in how resources are allocated because drivers are sleeping next to mental health, nurses, and those doing communications assessments. If you end up both eating and securing a space in line at the shower trailer behind the civic center before it’s too late, it’s something of a miracle. With a lot of contamination and illness going around, it’s best to just throw away the shoes on your way out.

As for the people we served, we realized the depth of desperation that is held for those in areas without good water. Your clothes were washed away or were contaminated, and even if you could wash them, you can’t because your washer and dryer is flooded (one family had some kind of snakes in theirs) as is the laundry mat down the road.

We brought restaurant workers wearing their last items of clothing and shoes serving people in the only community restaurant to open back up in Port Arthur in a certain radius, knowing that those clothes too, would soon be dirty. So what then? How long will this all take? While you may see signs of recovery in the city center, it’s clear that this is going to take so much longer for others, and the rural areas are barely touched by “helpers”.

The depth of this disaster isn’t something that we are used to covering, Katrina taught us a few things that are applicable, but each disaster is its own, and this scale is unimaginable. Puerto Rico is now unfolding as we watch on our screens, in some sort of mass denial of scale.

Most of us can sit comfortably behind our devices and all caps “GET TRUCK DRIVERS!” and while I can personally imagine the barriers that they have in distribution as we just experienced them in Harvey, you just can’t know unless you’re there and are using all of your five senses.

NBC Nightly News Headline on the American Red Cross is Deeply Misleading

Photo Credit: @Redcross Twitter

Recently, NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt headlined a story entitled “American Red Cross Fails to Pay Funds Promised to Many Harvey Victims”. The report discussed the failure of the American Red Cross to disburse funding to the victims of Hurricane Harvey. As a volunteer with Red Cross, this report raised my concerns for several reasons, and I immediately contacted them in order gain some insight into the causes preventing the Red Cross from distributing emergency funding.

According to the American Red Cross website, the primary function of the charity is “providing relief to victims of disaster, blood to hospital patients, health, and safety training to the public, or emergency social services to U.S. military families.” For more information on how the American Red Cross spends its donations, you can visit their website. After speaking with staff, I am now able to provide some clarity on the issues causing the delay with the disbursements.

Website Crashed

The website crashed from the 1 million displaced people trying to access it (plus repeat tries). Not only is the Red Cross attempting to aid those displaced by Hurricane Harvey, they are also handling an equally major crisis in Florida due to Hurricane Irma. Both Hurricanes have left a destabilized communications infrastructure with limited wifi and cell phone access in which to process aid. Everyone in flood areas is also still fighting the shaky access and embattled communication infrastructure in place. Many residents were showing up at the Red Cross HQ in hopes of gaining connectivity through the Red Cross. Unfortunately, the office has been experiencing the same connectivity issues.

Headlines about “High Overhead” feed into Confusion for Donors

When donors don’t understand that upgrading systems and IT staff, hiring volunteer coordinators and trainers, and other administrative staff duties are necessary to make it possible to handle 1 million plus displaced victims in multiple disasters at the same time, it breeds confusion and misinformation. The American Red Cross is not a governmental agency, but it is responsible for the bulk of relief efforts when a disaster happens. With Congress continuous cuts to FEMA, the American Red Cross will not be able to continue mass scale relief if they are denied donor support due to misinformation. This is a dangerous way to share information about life-saving charities. Without the American Red Cross, who else is equipped to handle natural disasters on this scale?

Emergency Funding

The $400 funds allocation from the Red Cross is an attempt to fill the gap that insurance and governmental delays create for desperate families. However, the reality is that it is dangerous to have volunteers standing on street corners handing out cash. However, this crisis may help the Red Cross identify innovative ways to distribute funds to help expedite funding to families. Currently, funds are being distributed to local centers like Wal-Mart for a more orderly disbursement. However, each disbursement center in affected areas is also still dealing with their own infrastructure issues.

At the end of the day, the American Red Cross is an organization run by 90% plus volunteers working at least 15 hours per day in harsh conditions because they want to help others. More paid employees would help with consistency and efficiency (deployments are only weeks long), but it would also create higher overhead in which donors don’t want.

With all of the disaster pile-ons we are experiencing with even more looming in the distance, we need to take a good look at our charities and how we expect them to function like a governmental agency or corporation while relying on donor support. How does the Red Cross run operations that cover a million people in a single disaster without the funding to hire people at salaries that will attract those with the talent and the willingness to risk such public scrutiny?

Food For The Poor Rushes Emergency Supplies to Caribbean Islands Destroyed by Hurricane Irma

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (Sept. 13, 2017) – Food For The Poor is rushing emergency relief to Barbuda, St. Maarten, the U.S. Virgin Islands and other areas in the Caribbean to meet the dire needs of those who survived Hurricane Irma, which slammed the islands as a Category 5 storm with 185 mph winds last week.

The first shipment of lifesaving aid was sent from Caritas Antilles Chancery Offices, the charity’s trusted partner in St. Lucia, and arrived in the Dutch territory of St. Maarten on Monday.

Two other longtime Food For the Poor partners, Matthew 25: Ministries and Feed My Starving Children, are assisting us in this endeavor.

Critical items supplied included beans, MannaPack fortified rice meals, blankets, rubber boots, personal hygiene items and agricultural tools.

“At times like this, it is important to reach out to our brothers and sisters with whatever we can supply, and let them know that someone cares for them,” said Robin Mahfood, President/CEO of Food For The Poor. “The poor do not have the means to take care of themselves after a storm, and it can be devastating. Our generous donors are working with us to meet their most basic needs. This is a life or death situation.”

CNN reported on Wednesday that at least 44 people died when Irma battered the Caribbean last week, destroying homes and leaving thousands of people homeless. And what little food or water that was left is running out, leaving residents vulnerable.

On Barbuda, most homes and businesses were destroyed, according to the Prime Minister’s office. On St. Maarten, which is split between Dutch and French Territory, an official said up to 90 percent of the island had been destroyed. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, many who had not evacuated before Irma were huddled together in buildings that had no roofs. With roads impassable, they had to walk for miles to pick up food and water dropped off by U.S. military helicopters.

Haiti appeared to escape the brunt of Irma, whose outer bands raked its northern coastline. The storm dumped several inches of rain, which can cripple deforested areas of this island nation that are prone to devastating mudslides capable of wiping out entire neighborhoods.

Because communications are extremely difficult in the string of Caribbean islands after Irma’s wrath, it wasn’t immediately clear how many people simply weren’t able to contact others to let them know if they survived.

The most critical items needed are food, water, shelter, and medicines, said Marcia Haywood, regional coordinator for Caritas Antilles Chancery Offices in St. Lucia.

“It’s all of us working together to help those who really need it,” Haywood said.  “It’s a privilege and an honor to be able to do that.”

To support Hurricane Irma relief efforts, cash donations are best. Checks can be mailed to Food For The Poor at 6401 Lyons Road, Coconut Creek, FL 33073. Please make checks payable to Food For The Poor and include the source code SC#104162 to accurately route your donation to the relief effort.

Food For The Poor, one of the largest international relief and development organizations in the nation, does much more than feed millions of the hungry poor primarily in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance, with more than 95 percent of all donations going directly to programs that help the poor. For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.

How to Volunteer for Hurricane Irma Disaster Relief

As Hurricane Irma makes landfall in Florida, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other federal agencies, along with non-profit, faith- and community-based organizations, and volunteers will be working together to provide services and assistance to help those affected by the destructive storm.

“Right now where we need citizens, neighbors helping neighbors, is in the life safety mission,” said Brock Long, FEMA Administrator. “The objectives are clear: restore power, ensure lifesaving and life sustaining supplies, provide emergency medication, and maintain security. This response and recovery will take the whole community…”

FEMA expects thousands of volunteers to be needed to support mass care activities for evacuation shelters in Florida, and potentially other southeastern states in the path of Hurricane Irma.

Individuals seeking to volunteer in Hurricane Irma’s aftermath should not self-deploy, but rather, coordinate with local and state organizations to ensure appropriate volunteer safety, training, and housing. Volunteers acting alone and attempting to enter impacted zones may find themselves turned away by local authorities.

In Florida, the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FEDM) is coordinating with volunteer organizations across the state and partnering with the American Red Cross (ARC) to provide shelter operations training to volunteers and AmeriCorps grantees.

Those interested in volunteering to assist in Florida are encouraged to learn about opportunities at www.volunteerflorida.org, the website of Volunteer Florida, the state’s lead agency for volunteerism and national service that administers federal, state, and local funding for service programs.   Individuals looking to volunteer at shelters, should complete shelter operations training online and submit a registration form. Since the damages are unknown as of now, potential volunteers are asked to seek opportunities with charitable organizations that are currently stocking supplies.  The website is frequently updated, so please check back for new information.

If you are a nurse and available to volunteer, please email BPRCHDPreparedness@flhealth.gov to volunteer.

Individuals who register online and have completed the training, should note that if not contacted, please do not unexpectedly travel to disaster areas to volunteer, as it will create a burden on organizations and first responders. Volunteers should only go into affected areas with a specific volunteer assignment, proper safety gear, and valid identification.

VOLUNTEERING IN THE SOUTHEAST IN RESPONSE TO HURRICANE IRMA

As the storm is anticipated to affect other areas in the Southeast, the need for volunteers is expected to extend beyond Florida.  Anyone looking to get involved after Hurricane Irma has passed, is encouraged to volunteer with local and nationally known organizations. A list of volunteer websites are available at www.nvoad.org.

Volunteer generosity helps impacted communities heal from the tragic consequences of disasters, but recovery will last much longer. There will be several volunteer needs in the coming months and years, so please continue to sign up after the disaster.

Hurricane Irma is still considered extremely dangerous, with the potential to impact additional areas than Florida. As the situation changes, needs may also change in these areas, so please continue to monitor traditional and social media channels to learn more.

Reach Out Worldwide: ROWW Fulfilling the Unmet Needs of Disaster Victims

Reach Out Worldwide (ROWW)
Reach Out Worldwide (ROWW)

What started out as a group of friends traveling to exotic locales and their desire to help people struck by tragedy, Reach Out Worldwide (ROWW) was born. Founder, Paul Walker, created the organization in 2010 with the mission of providing relief to victims of natural disasters.

Two weeks after a fatal car accident, Paul Walker was laid to rest on December 15th, 2013 at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in a private ceremony with friends and family. Although Paul is no longer with us, his legacy will live on through ROWW as they continue to fulfill the unmet needs of disaster victims.

Reach Out Worldwide (ROWW) states on its website,

Natural Disasters don’t give us much warning. Our mission is simple, use our network of professionals with first responder skill-sets to fulfill the unmet need in times of chaos, tragedy, and destruction. Paving the way for long term disaster relief, leaving it better than when we got there. ~ ROWW

As a self-professed adrenaline junkie, Paul Walker was not as public about his charitable and philanthropic work with ROWW. Many people may be unaware that Paul was in the process of getting his First Responder Certification in order to be more field ready with the medical professionals on his disaster relief teams.

In a touching video recently released by ROWW, a tearful Paul Walker can be seen talking about meeting fathers holding their children asking for help to survive. As he recounts these experiences, you can see the deeply felt compassion and empathy for the hurting families they served.

If you are interested in helping  Reaching Out Worldwide continue their work, there are two ways that you can help support them. You can donate directly at www.roww.org/donate, and/or you can purchase a copy of the Fast and the Furious 6 where a portion of the proceeds will be donated to ROWW.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/FxU4kDmRzIw[/youtube]

Paul was only a couple of months older than me, and I know that feeling of not being afraid of anything. Remembering when the first Fast and the Furious came out, I was living the fast and the furious lifestyle with a 92 Honda Prelude Si. After too many brushes with death, I got scared that I was running out of chances, and the reality of my mortality set in. The Fast and the Furious franchise will never be the same, and you will truly be missed. View this fitting tribute to the life and legacy of Paul Walker.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8UCI7r1Aqw[/youtube]

Fast and Furious Star Paul Walker Died During Charity Event for Philippines Typhoon Victims

Paul Walker
Paul Walker in Haiti during the 2010 earthquake with his nonprofit organization (ROWW)

On November 30, 2013, Fast and the Furious star Paul Walker died in a single car crash along with Rodger Rodas who was the driver of the vehicle. Paul had just turned 40 this past September, and he had already begun filming installment 7 for the “Fast and the Furious” franchise. If you are a fan of his movies, it was no secret that Paul Walker was an adrenaline junkie whether it was cave diving in exotic locations, catching waves in Fuji, or driving fast cars, but it also gave rise to his stardom in films such as the Fast and the Furious, In to the Blue, or Bobby Z.

However, many people may be unaware of his philanthropy and charitable giving in which he also concentrated his efforts with equal measure. In 2010, Reach Out Worldwide (ROWW) was created as a disaster relief organization to assist earthquake victims in Haiti. In the photo above, this picture was posted on Pinterest by ROWW stating, “Taken in Haiti following the earthquake in 2010. Paul Walker with his nonprofit organization ROWW. org which provides aid to affected communities of natural disasters. Paul taking a moment of silence before leaving.”

Originally, Paul wanted to be a marine biologist, and his acting was an avenue to pay off student loan debt. The plan was to return back to school once his financial situation improved. However, he quickly realized that his acting career could offer opportunities to pursue other passions such as working with National Geographic and his charitable giving.

Yesterday, Paul Walker was hosting a charity event through his organization to help raise funds for the victims of the Philippines Typhoon when he decided to go on a test drive in a new Porsche with his friend as the driver. According to reports by TMZ who broke the story and was on the scene, the vehicle hit a fixed object leaving the occupants trapped inside while it became engulfed in flames.

According to Paul Walker’s PR Reps via his Facebook Page,

It is with a truly heavy heart that we must confirm that Paul Walker passed away today in a tragic car accident while attending a charity event for his organization Reach Out Worldwide. He was a passenger in a friend’s car, in which both lost their lives. We appreciate your patience as we too are stunned and saddened beyond belief by this news. Thank you for keeping his family and friends in your prayers during this very difficult time. We will do our best to keep you apprised on where to send condolences. – #TeamPW

Paul Walker made a career off of his rugged good looks, but he also often used them to do good in this world. As the spokesperson for Davidoff Cool Water, the company made generous donations to his charity ROWW which helped him to provide aid to victims after a disaster struck. To learn more about ROWW and the angel qualities of Paul Walker, you can view the interview below where he talks about his desire for ROWW to survive past his time on this earth.

The photo below is one of the last few pictures of Paul Walker before he died, and it is also a picture of the Porsche he was riding in at the time of his death. For those who would like to honor his memory, consider making a donation to his charity Reach Out Worldwide to help fulfill his vision of giving aid to those in need.

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