Editor’s Note: Orla Kelleher is the Director of the Aisling Irish Center in New York and this is her heartfelt reaction to what is happening in Rockaway in New York right now in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Donation and volunteer information is contained at the end of this article.
This past weekend was quite a different scene out in Rockaway Beachwith hundreds of volunteers, including up to 100 volunteers from the Aisling Center, helping out in whatever way they could.
This was not the case all week when we felt we were very much on our own checking in on residents in high rise apartment blocks.
When you arrive in Rockaway Beach or Breezy Point or any other location affected by hurricane Sandy, you feel so inadequate by comparison with the vast destruction; but standing there staring at it won’t get anybody anywhere, so you just get stuck in and do what you can do.
While the volunteers were checking on residents in one apartment block, the power came back on throughout the complex after almost two weeks - the place erupted in a cheer of celebration!
It was a relief to see Red Cross out there. We were also accompanied by a medical team from Occupy Sandy to check on elderly residents as we went from door to door. They promised to take swift action with prescriptions that needed to be filled.
Read more news on Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath here
Some of our volunteers teamed up with Habitat for Humanity and did all that was needed to be done to make somebody's house a home again.
While our volunteers were going door to door to check on elderly and homebound residents to assess their needs, prescription refills of vital medicine and the need for medical personnel became very evident.
It was weighing heavily on our volunteers’ minds that there were people in these high rise apartment blocks with serious medical conditions who could not get out of their homes because they are unable to climb 10-12 flights of stairs due to age or ill health.
Why in New York City, where medicine is so advanced and doctors are so knowledgeable, are ordinary people like us so concerned about the health of these people when it should be the medical professionals knocking on their doors?
Doesn’t anybody realize that these people have no way of contacting the outside world right now for help and they are unable to get their prescription medication filled or ask for medical attention? While it may not be as serious as somebody with a heart condition, we met an elderly man who had scalded himself trying to boil a kettle in darkness and was literally nursing his own wounds.
Unless something is done now to help these people, the chances are they won’t be around to answer the next knock on their door.