Thanks to ICNA’s Disaster Case Management, Ali Is On the Move Again

When Hurricane Harvey inundated southeast Texas, the Hussein family’s apartment in southwest Houston stayed dry, but unfortunately, the family van was destroyed by water that flooded the parking area. The Husseins are refugees from Syria who arrived in the United States in 2015 to rebuild a life away from war. A family of seven, they lacked resources to easily replace the vehicle.

The worst part is that they depended on the van to transport Ali, their son who must use a wheelchair due to the muscular dystrophy that has affected him since birth. With the van gone, Ali was essentially stranded at the apartment, unable to leave their home for medical appointments or any other activities. The Husseins tried available means of public transit, but these couldn’t reliably accommodate the wheelchair.

Soon after the disaster, Mr. Hussein applied for help from Houston Children’s Charity’s Chariots for Children program, but was denied. The charity required a birth certificate as part of the application process, but as refugees, neither Mr. Hussein nor his son had one.

With desperation rising, in October 2018 Mr. Hussein attended a disaster recovery outreach event and found ICNA Relief, a domestic disaster response agency of the Islamic faith and one of five National VOAD agencies participating in Project Comeback: TEXAS. He met disaster case manager Salem Al-Sao, who began searching for a solution.

After many phone calls and visits to Houston Children’s Charity, paperwork was submitted in January that explained the client’s situation. The charity’s board reviewed the case, waived the provision for the birth certificate and awarded a vehicle to the Hussein family. In March, ICNA was notified that the family was selected for a brand new transport van valued at $38,000.

With that, the Husseins’ recovery from Harvey was complete. With a new van, their son can once again access places like parks, the museums, the mall, and most importantly, his doctor appointments.


(Contributed by ICNA)

Passing the Language Barrier to Get A New Home for Mr. Dao

Mr. Thiet Dao is a 91-year-old widower who was living alone in a mobile home in north Houston when Hurricane Harvey struck.  The storm was especially terrifying for Mr. Dao.  He speaks only Vietnamese, and is unable to communicate in English at all.

Harvey was cruel to Mr. Dao.  His home sustained an estimated $30,000 in damage – essentially destroyed by the storm.  Because Mr. Dao subsists on a very limited income and relies largely on support provided by his family and children, he was unable to afford repairs to his home on his own.

With no feasible options for repair or a move to safer property, Mr. Dao continued to reside in his damaged home, uncertain how he could improve his living conditions.

Fortunately, case managers from The Alliance came through Mr. Dao’s neighborhood, knocking on doors to notify residents that help was available.  Case managers found Mr. Dao and immediately took him under their wing.

After a walk-through and assessment, Avenue CDC determined that the damage to his home was too extensive to be repaired.  His entire home would have to be replaced with a new manufactured home.  After some negotiation, Avenue CDC agreed to finance and conduct the replacement of his home. 

Mr. Dao was set up with temporary housing while Avenue worked on the replacement of his home.  Throughout the process, Mr. Dao’s disaster case manager, Tien, served as the correspondent between him and the home repair agency, communicating the client’s needs and information about the repairs to the respective parties.  

Tien worked closely with Avenue CDC to make sure that the repairs were completed to the highest possible standard.  Mr. Dao’s new home has even more space than his previous one, meaning that his son from out of state was able to move in to take care of his elderly father. 

Mr. Dao is pleased with his replacement home and with his Alliance case manager, who worked diligently to provide him with consistent and high-quality assistance throughout the repair process.  He received additional assistance from HHFA and BakerRipley to help with his other unmet needs, such as furniture assistance and temporary housing.


(Contributed by The Alliance) 

Airbnb Open Homes Program

NVOAD and several of its members are partnering with Airbnb to prepare communities ahead of disaster, and we invite your organization to join the effort. Airbnb’s Open Homes program enables community members to offer free, temporary housing to disaster evacuees in need of emergency housing, as well as emergency relief workers and volunteers who come to disaster-inflicted regions to assist with recovery process.

Airbnb’s mission is to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere, and the Open Homes program looks to solve the “anyone” part of their belonging ethos. Whether it’s neighbors evacuating or relief workers deployed to help, a home gives people much-needed space to figure out what’s next. Hosts can play an important role in their community’s response and recovery — just by offering their extra space.

This Open Homes concept began organically back in 2012 in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and has since grown into a global disaster response and relief initiative that makes it easy for generous community members to provide space for people in need when disasters strike.

“Through our program, those in need of temporary housing are able to connect with Airbnb hosts in the area who are opening their homes free of charge. Airbnb Open Homes hosts waive their fees and we waive ours.”

How it works

During and directly after a disaster, Airbnb activates the Open Homes program to aid local efforts and address the need for temporary housing and accommodations.

Community members who choose to participate have their space listed on our disaster response portal, where evacuees and relief workers can in turn book temporary housing with hosts who are offering their space for free. In addition, guests and hosts in the impacted area have access to Airbnb’s 24/7 customer support and a specialized Open Homes team for any questions about a reservation, as well as Airbnb’s $1M guarantee property protection.

To ensure the program is needed and of value to other concurrent response and relief efforts, Airbnb works closely with local, state and Federal governments and relief organizations, including the Red Cross, All Hands and Hearts Smart Response, IsraAid, Team Rubicon, and Mercy Corps.

Enabled by these proactive preparedness partnerships, the Open Homes community has housed over 25,000 people in need to date. Open Homes hosts have helped people from more than 61 different countries, and Airbnb’s disaster response team has responded to hundreds of disasters around the world.

Help build a resilient community

The foundational pillar of Open Homes is the community of altruistic hosts. These are everyday people who are willing and excited to provide free housing to evacuees and relief workers, as an alternative or in addition to making monetary donations and volunteering time. Open Homes hosts are invaluable in ensuring families and relief workers have a comfortable place to stay in the wake of disaster.

Given the urgency and need during a disaster, proactive collaboration with mission-aligned organizations is essential. With a collective audience of millions across the globe, organizations like yours are crucial to this preparedness effort. Your organization can help build resilience ahead of disaster by spreading the word to your communities with a simple click.

Click here for email and social templates.

● Want to learn more about ways we can help you build community resilience? Fill out this brief form.

NVOAD and Airbnb hope you and your audience will join this community of generous hosts today. Learn more:

50 years text

National VOAD and our members has been promoting the 4 Cs, coordination, collaboration, cooperation and communication for 50 years! Throughout that time, we have responded to hundreds, if not thousands, of disasters throughout the United States and it's territories; from Alaska to Puerto Rico, from Maine to Saipan. While we will be celebrating throughout the year, it would be great if you could help us by submitting your written stories, photographs, videos, audio files, and any other archived memories that you may have of the VOAD movement to us! Our goal is to further inform the public of all the great work that we do together.

Peter Gudaitis

New York VOAD

State VOAD

Mr. Gudaitis currently serves as Executive Director & CEO of New York Disaster Interfaith Services (NYDIS), Chair of New York VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster), and President of the National Disaster Interfaiths Network (NDIN).

Founded in 2001, NYDIS is a 501(c)(3) federation of 61 faith-based human service providers, charitable organizations and faith communities working in partnership to provide disaster readiness, response, and recovery services for New York City. NYDIS collaborates withlocal, state, and national organizations to facilitate the delivery of non-sectarian spiritual care, relief, recovery services and planning support-as well as providing mitigation education, preparedness training, and risk communication tools to the New York City faith sector and its partners. NYDIS’ relief and recovery services are principally targeted toward under-resourced victim’s families, survivors, and impacted under-served communities. NYDIS currently has 26employees and a $4M annual operating budget funded by donations, grants, and government contracts. NYDIS’ 2018 recovery caseload includes over 3,000 9/11, Hurricane Sandy, and Puerto Evacuee clients –its resilience programs annually provide training, preparedness tools and other programming to over 6,000 religious leaders.

He has over 30years of experience in chaplaincy, disaster emergency management, faith-based philanthropy, program management, and social services administration –including almost a decade in Emergency Medical Services.

Currently, Mr. Gudaitis is a member of the Faith-based Caucus of the International Association of Emergency Managers; Guest Lecturer and Advisory Board member for the Metropolitan College of New York, Emergency and Disaster Management Program; Contributing Fellow at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California; Chair of New York State VOAD (Voluntary Organization Active in Disaster) and, has served on the Board of Directors of New York City VOAD for over fifteen years.

In 2012, he was appointed to the New York State Respond Commission by Governor Andrew Cuomo. In 2015, he was appointed to the New York City Charitable Organization & House of Worship Recovery Task Force by then New York City Council Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito. Since 2016 he has been the Co-Chair of the NYC Faith Sector Community Preparedness Program Advisory Board of the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene. In 2017 he was elected to the National VOAD Emotional & Spiritual Care Committee. And, in 2018, he was appointed to the New York State Puerto Rico Recovery
& Reconstruction Committee by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Mr. Gudaitis holds a B.A. from Kenyon College, and an M.Div. from the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church. He lives in the Borough of Manhattan in New York City, with his husband of 19 years, the Hon. Anthony Cannataro, a Justice of the New York State Supreme Court and Administrative Judge of the Civil Courts of the City of New York.

Michael G Manning

Louisiana VOAD

State VOAD

On January 27, 2004, Michael G. Manning became Executive Director of the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, an affiliate of Feeding America, formerly America’s Second Harvest, The Nation’s Food Bank Network. The Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank procures and distributes food to over 120-member agencies in an eleven-parish area while working toward its vision to eliminate hunger. His current title is President and CEO of the Food Bank.

Prior to joining the Food Bank, Mike was the Vice President of Finance for Louisiana Generating LLC, the successor of Cajun Electric Power Cooperative, Inc., since April of 2000. He had held similar responsible positions with Cajun Electric since February of 1992, serving as Vice President and Treasurer and Vice President of Planning, Rates and Risk Management. Mike also has had experience in the marine and financial industries, beginning his work career with nearly seven years as a banker at Louisiana National Bank and its successors.

Mike is currently the Chairperson of the National Council of Feeding America Food Banks, President and current Board member of the Louisiana Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (“LAVOAD”), Chairperson of the Louisiana Capital Area Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (“LCAVOAD”). He is also the Chairperson of the Feeding America Disaster Taskforce. Mike currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge as the President-Elect. He formerly served as the Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (“NVOAD) and as a member of the Resilient America Roundtable of the National Academies. Mike served on the Volunteer Louisiana Commission and as a member of the Finance Advisory Council of Louisiana State University Department of Finance in the College of Business.

He is Past Chairman of the Central Region of Feeding America Food Banks, Mike is currently a member of the Board of the Emergency Food and Shelter Programs for East Baton Rouge and East Feliciana Parishes, the Board of the Louisiana Food Bank Association, and a member of the East Baton Rouge Parish Local Emergency Planning Committee. He has also served on the National Disaster Response Task Force and Disaster Advisory Group for Feeding America.

He is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree in Finance.

Mark Smith

American Red Cross

Tier 1

Mark J. Smith,is the Executive Director for Community Engagement and Partnerships at the American Red Cross. In this role, Mark leads a team of partnership professionals dedicated to engaging national, regional and community partners committed to supporting individuals and communities as they prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters.

Mr. Smith has been employed with the American Red Cross in a variety of capacities serving multiple lines of business including Disaster Services, Health and Safety Services, Chapter Operations and International Services. Highlights during this 18-year period include Regional Executive for both the Oklahoma and Mississippi Regions; Senior Director, Field Operations for the Hurricane Katrina Recovery Program; and, Regional Director for Africa Programs.

Prior to joining the American Red Cross, Mark worked for the largest minority led development organization focused on rural development in Africa –Africare. During his ten-year career with Africare, Mark has lived and/or worked in 36 sub-Saharan countries including Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, Ghana, Senegal, Mozambique and Angola to name a few. During this employment, he led multi-disciplinary teams focused on Maternal and Child Health, Food Security, HIV/AIDS Programming and numerous post conflict interventions.

Mark has an undergraduate degree in International Development from the historically black college Lincoln University and an MBA from the George Washington University in Washington DC.

Kevin King

Mennonite Disaster Service

Tier 2

Kevin King was born on a potato and dairy farm in Cochranville, Pennsylvania. He attended Eastern Mennonite College (now University), Harrisonburg, Virginia, and graduated in 1981 with a degree in International Agriculture Development. He received an MBA in International Economic Development in 1987 from Eastern College, St. Davids, Penna.

He worked in Brazil 1981 -1984 and in Jamaica 1987 -1991 with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) as an International Agriculture Advisor. Following this term he was theMaterial Resources Manager in MCC’s office in Akron from 1992 -2004. He coordinated the collecting and shipping of the material aid overseas. He traveled extensively to Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America to follow up on many of the disasters.

Since February 2004 Kevin is the Executive Director of Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) based in Lititz, Penna. Over the last 15 years he has led the organization to quadruple in staff size, funding and the deployment of volunteers to over 17 locations this past year throughout Canada and the U.S.

Kevin and his wife, Karen, an elementary school teacher, have two grown children.

Jenn Dorsch-Messler

Brethren Disaster Ministries

Tier 1

Jenn Dorsch-Messler is the Director of the Rebuild Program for the Church of the Brethren Disaster Ministries (BDM). She oversees the domestic program that provides volunteer construction labor and leadership to rebuild homes after natural disasters. She also is currently serving as the Coordinator for the Ephrata Compassion Project, a local ministry in Ephrata PA through Love INC. The program connects volunteers from area churches to families in their neighborhood with unmet home repair needs to make the repairs and build relationships.

Jenn is currently completing the remainder of a term on the Board of Directors for National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) and is up for re-election for a second term. In May 2018, she was elected Secretary for the Executive Committee of the NVOAD Board as well. She is also active with NVOAD work on the LTRG and Housing Committees. On the state level, she currently serves are the Secretary for the Executive Committee of Maryland National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster and has since March 2017.

Jenn holds a B.A. in Communications and Art from Juniata College and has worked professionally as a graphic designer. She also completed the masters program at Eastern Mennonite University's Center for Justice and Peacebuilding with a M.A. in Conflict Transformation and a focus on Peacebuilding and Trauma Healing. While there, she completed up to the Level 2 of the Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resiliency (STAR) training.

She grew up at Frederick Church of the Brethren, a 900-member church in Frederick, MD. There she also served on staff as the Director of Communication for three years overseeing all print and digital communication for the church. At Frederick CoB and her current home church, Ephrata Church of the Brethren (PA), she has served on Global Missions teams and is very active in local and national mission ministries. This has included volunteering
Voting Will Take Place during the National Member Meeting as a weekly volunteer through BDM frequently since 2007 and leading three missions to rebuild inHaiti following the 2010 earthquake.