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Americares President and CEO Michael J. Nyenhuis leads a health-focused relief and development organization that saves lives and improves health for people affected by poverty or disaster.
Hate is a powerful emotion, and we see so much of it in the world today. Hate drives division, oppression, violence and other actions that cast dark shadows over far too many people and places.
In the right context, however, hate — to dislike intensely, feel extreme aversion toward, detest — is understandable.
In the wake of last year’s devastating hurricanes, one of my colleagues asked a disaster survivor in Puerto Rico this question: “If Hurricane Maria were a person, what would you say to it?” The string of profanity that followed was not really a surprise. Another survivor called Maria a demon.
In short, Puerto Ricans hate that hurricane. We hate hurricanes, too. And tsunamis. And earthquakes. And floods. And other natural disasters that steal life, livelihood, security and comfort from millions of people every year. Responding to these disasters to save lives, relieve suffering and begin recovery is at the core of Americares mission.
Increasingly, readiness is part of this strategy. Technical experts in our field use the terms preparedness, disaster mitigation, or disaster risk reduction — but in the end, it’s the same thing: plans and actions that prepare people and communities to withstand any disaster.
We hate the destructive and deadly pyroclastic flows from volcanoes. The gases and ash from Fuego, in Guatemala, killed more than 100 people and displaced thousands in June 2018. Photo by William Vazquez.
For you and me, readiness might mean knowing evacuation routes; keeping a flashlight, radio and batteries nearby; stocking bottled water and canned foods. For the local health centers Americares works with around the world, readiness often includes training staff, stocking critical health supplies, adding solar power and generators and strengthening infrastructure.
We continue to support charitable health centers still recovering from Hurricane Harvey, Irma or Maria as they prepare for the next storm. In our workshops, clinic staff create disaster readiness plans informed by what they have learned over the last months. The next storm will come. No one knows when, but it will come.
To bring attention to disaster preparedness, we are also launching a public awareness campaign called “We Hate Hurricanes.” We take the name from a 2012 event held after Hurricane Sandy walloped the northeast U.S. At the event in Los Angeles, actors and comedians Will Ferrell, John Hamm, Chelsea Peretti, Adam Scott and Sarah Silverman raised money to support Americares relief and recovery efforts.
I guess we don’t actually hate hurricanes. They are just weather systems. We hate the destruction they cause. At the same time, we love preparedness. We want communities around the world to be ready for anything — storms (like August’s Hurricane Lane that hit Hawaii), floods (that have devastated Kerala, India), earthquakes (Indonesia experienced one recently), refugee crises (our support is reaching Syrians in and out of the country) and more. Are you ready?