Israeli Aid Volunteers Describe ‘Serious, Heavy Damage’ Encountered While Helping West Virginia Residents Affected by Severe Flood
The Israeli international relief organization IsraAid talked to The Algemeiner on Wednesday about its efforts to help West Virginia homeowners with the tremendous amount of damage caused by floods that hit the state in June.
“Sometimes the damage is so big we suggest demolishing [the house]. There’s nothing to save,” said Dan Friedman, who is leading the seven-strong IsraAid delegation, which arrived at the site on Friday. “Sometimes there is not a house at all. It’s a bit crazy what’s going on here. It’s quite serious..we are dealing with a lot of heavy damage.”
The group of IsraAID volunteers — all IDF veterans between the ages of 20 and 60 — will remain in West Virginia until July 21, to help residents affected by last month’s flash floods, which left 23 people dead and hundreds of houses leveled. The delegation already completed work on five homes, and for the last three days it has teamed up with its partner organization, the US non-profit Team Rubicon, to repair a house whose entire infrastructure — as well as its owner’s furniture and clothing — was damaged by the flood, Friedman said. Outside, he said, debris has piled up on the streets.
IsraAID coordinates its work with homeowners, adjusting to their needs. Friedman said, “Sometimes their wishes come from a place of sorrow. Sometimes a person says, ‘Keep that,’ when I know full well that they cannot do anything with the item in question. Still, we try to be sensitive about it.”
Friedman added that IsraAID has received amazing feedback from residents.
“We met people in the streets or the house-owners, and they are like, ‘Wow, you came from Israel to help us?'” he recounted. “People here are very appreciative, and this keeps us going. In some sense disturbing, we are quite enthusiastic about the work. We come with a lot of drive, a lot of motivation. The support of the community and Team Rubicon and everybody who comes to help keeps us going and enables us to wake up in the morning.”
The Israeli delegation is staying at a school in Summersville, whose teachers have offered to cook and do laundry for the volunteers. Friedman said, “They are taking care of us like a mom and dad. It’s heartwarming.”