Hurricane Survivors Still Need Help Getting Back To “Normal”

Just three short weeks ago here in Atlanta, we were all bracing ourselves for a hurricane. A hurricane!  All the way up here…in the northern part of Georgia!

If you remember that week, there was a sense of panic in the air. People were filling their tanks with gas and buying up all of the bread and water. Schools were closed and all eyes were on TV, social media, and weather apps, trying to find out just how much devastation Irma would cause in our community.  We were all holding our breath together.  Watching and waiting.

Today, for most of us, things are back to “normal.” The power has been restored. The wi-fi is working. Schools and businesses are all open and the grocery stores are fully stocked.   We have moved on.  And because the damage here was so minimal and the whole “ordeal” was limited to a couple of days, we can consider ourselves REALLY lucky.

HOWEVER….We can’t let our own good fortune blind us from the fact that there is still a LOT of work to be done for those who were not quite so lucky.

Sadly, the news coverage about Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose’ and Maria has all but faded away, which means that our own awareness of the aftermath has probably dwindled out as well. It’s human nature, after all.

But Hurricane survivors in places like Texas, South Florida and Puerto Rico are counting on the rest of us to STAY AWARE, despite the lack of coverage. And more importantly, they need us to continue to send help. Things are FAR from “normal” for them and will likely not return to anything even remotely close to “normal” for a very long time!

Consider this…

In Houston, some 20,000 people are STILL living in shelters or hotels, unable to return to their homes due to the catastrophic flooding that Harvey brought to their community. Entire neighborhoods have been destroyed and the water damage is so great that dangerous mold is now a real concern for those trying to clean out the mess and rebuild their lives. (Photos below taken by Amy Pearce of Send Relief during recent trip to Houston)

In Monroe County, Florida, FEMA trailers for temporary housing are just now arriving. Thousands of residents are in need of shelter there and the county’s main industry, tourism, is losing millions of dollars every day, causing an economic crisis in the area.

In Collier County, Florida, where 15-foot storm surges caused flooding and high winds took out power lines and trees, thousands of residents are also without a place to call home.  In the small fishing community of Everglades City, officials estimate that 540 of the 640 buildings were destroyed or severely damaged. (photo below from local Fox News affiliate in Collier County)

And in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, 3.4 million residents are facing the grim reality that power may not be restored for weeks….maybe even months. Without electricity, there is a lack of clean drinking water.  Not only that, but pumps cannot operate to bring water into buildings for bathing or to flush toilets. Can you even imagine living in a place where 3.4 million people cannot get a drink of water or flush a toilet?

Obviously, the people living in the areas that were hardest hit by these unusually devastating back-to-back storms are in need of help. And they are going to need help for a LONG time…with a LOT of different things.

So… we have pulled together a list of five lesser-known relief organizations that are currently providing aid to people in need and will continue to offer assistance to affected areas for the long road ahead.

It is our hope that our followers will take a moment to review the list and share it with anyone and everyone who is looking for a way to help.

Of course, larger relief organizations like The Red Cross and Unicef are still doing amazing work as well. We simply wanted to provide some other alternatives. No matter where and how you choose to help, it will be much appreciated.  Just remember, the important thing is to help now and keep checking in the months ahead to see where there may still be a need.

Ongoing awareness is going to be critical in getting these people back to “normal.”


Send Relief, an arm of the North American Mission Board is based in Alpharetta, GA.  Their organization is continuing to send volunteers and supplies to aid in the restoration of areas hardest hit by the hurricanes. You can watch videos about their work and learn more about how to help  here.

MAP International provides health and hygiene supplies and medicine to those in need. Their global distribution center is based in nearby Brunswick, GA. You can learn more by visiting their website here.

Americares is an organization that supplies medicines needed for acute and chronic conditions. Things like asthma medication, tetanus vaccines and insulin are provided for those who no longer have access to these live-saving drugs.  You can learn more on their website here.

Samaritans Purse helps supply things like generators, water purification systems, heavy-duty shelter plastic and other much-needed items and assistance.  You can visit their website here.

The National Diaper Bank Network helps connect community based diaper banks across the country that collect, store and distribute free diapers to families in need. You can learn more about how to help them by visiting their website  here.

Again, the point is to help. No matter how you choose to help, it is just important to actually do something…anything.  And it is absolutely critical that we all keep up the awareness so that help is provided not just while the story is “hot” or helping is “trendy”, but for the long haul….at least until we can feel confident that the victims are well on their way back to “normal.”

Banish Back-to-School Moodiness with Better Sleep

School has been back in session for a month now and if you are like a lot of parents, you may have noticed that all of the excitement that accompanies a shiny new year has been replaced with a brand of foot stomping, eye-rolling surliness that would make even “Oscar the Grouch” blush.

You may think that your children are just going through an adjustment period. And truth be told, they probably are. But it might be something much simpler than you think. It could be a good old fashioned case of exhaustion. Bottom line: Your children are probably really, really TIRED!

Part of the cause might be the crazy-early wake-up time you need to enforce. Part of it might be the fact that you are an “activities family” with three kids going in three different directions, five nights a week. And of course a big part might be homework. Why is there always SO much homework?!?!?

With so much going on, sometimes it is easy to overlook the importance of a good night’s sleep for our kids. We have ALL been there. But after a few too many days of moodiness, you might decide that it is high-time you make sleep a priority in your household.

The Facts…

The American Academy of Pediatrics has known about the importance of sleep for a long time. In fact, they have age-specific recommendations. They say that little ones aged 3-5 should get at least 10-13 hours of sleep per day (including naps). School-aged children, 6-12-years-old, need 9-12 hours and teenagers (13-18) should be sleeping 8-10 hours per night!

The AAP’s expert panel on sleep even found that getting adequate sleep on a regular basis leads to improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life and mental and physical health. On the flip side, they discovered that NOT getting enough rest is associated with issues like hypertension, obesity, depression and an increased risk of injuries.

Of course all of this makes perfect sense. As adults we know that we feel a lot better about life after a good night’s sleep. But are the AAP’s recommendations really practical?

Most kids today have piles of homework and endless after-school activities. Many nights they aren’t even eating dinner until way past sundown. So how on earth are we, as parents, supposed to make sure they get the suggested amount of  shut eye?

Since most of us are not just going to suddenly cancel our activities and stop making our children do their homework (although it is tempting!), it might make more sense to shift the focus from helping our children get more sleep, to helping them get better sleep….and in the process uncover ways to minimize evening stress and (maybe) gain a few extra minutes of slumber here and there.

That said, here are a few real-world, fairly easy-to-implement strategies that might help:

  • Go tech-free before bed and remove screens from kids’ rooms. True, your youngsters will moan and groan about what an ogre you are, but you can back up your new rules with the support of the AAP. They say that all electronics should be turned off 30 minutes before light’s-out and all screened items (TV’s, tablets, gaming systems, computers, etc.) should be banished from a child’s room. Period.


  • No phones! Phones have screens, too…so create a charging station in the kitchen, the family room, etc., and make a habit of keeping your children’s phones in this special spot each and every night. They will not like it, but it will be so worth it! Meanwhile, buy a regular alarm clock so that your clever angels cannot use “waking up” as a valid reason to keep a phone next to the bed.


  • Watch out for sugary snacks and liquids of any kind. Sugar brings on hyperactivity and too much liquid (milk, juice, water, whatever) can mean sleep interruption. You want to minimize late- night bathroom visits and be done with bed wetting. Of course, caffeine is totally out of the question. Just help them avoid it as much as humanly possible.


  • Schedule and be prepared for homework. Keep a homework calendar and plot assignments and studying for activity-free nights. If you are shuttling one child around to a sibling’s activities, pack a homework bag to keep in the car. Load it up with pencils, markers, paper and whatever else your child might need to complete an assignment. That way homework can be done while you drive all over town. It won’t be as much fun as playing Clash of Clans on their phone for two straight hours, but it will make them a LOT more pleasant to live with in the long run. Side note: Find out if your older children can do homework or study during lunch. Some high schools will allow students go to the library during the lunch period or even work on group projects in an empty classroom. Look into it and encourage your kids to use the time if they can.


  • Plan meals ahead and have healthy, quick foods at the ready. It is a pain at first, but you will be so glad if you get in the habit. Remember: It doesn’t need to be fancy. Things like scrambled eggs and whole wheat toast, grilled cheese and soup, baked potato and salad bar are easy and filling without breaking the bank or taking forever to prepare. Keep a supply of things like cooked pasta, cooked chicken, tortillas, rice and frozen veggies on hand to make a variety of fast meals. These foods are far easier on the digestive system than greasy fast food and can aid in much more comfortable sleep.


  • Put them in water. As simple as it sounds, a warm bath or shower can be the fastest way to transition your kids from a crazy evening to a restful night. Have an athlete? Put them into a tub of lavender or eucalyptus epsom salts. Even the boys will enjoy it! The smell isn’t that strong (or too girly) and it can be downright soothing after a rough practice.


  • Tidy rooms make for sweet dreams. As much as they hate it, have kids tidy up their rooms a bit before climbing into bed. A cluttered space isn’t restful.


  • Get everything ready for morning before hitting the sack. Use that 30-minutes of electronics-free time mentioned above to get clothes laid out, backpacks packed, gym bags refreshed and that missing shoe pulled out from under the sofa and placed by the back door. The more prepared your children are for the next day, the easier it will be for them to relax and nod off.


  • White noise is your friend. A recent article in Popular Science explained it like this: “White noise creates a masking effect, blocking out those sudden changes that frustrate light sleepers or people trying to fall asleep.” You don’t even need a fancy sound machine. A simple fan will do or even some gentle music. Whatever you think will lull your child to sleep and minimize distractions in the night.


  • There is magic in repetition! Once you get a good routine established try to keep to it. Just don’t get so caught up in trying to keep the routine that you forget to remain fluid. We all know that schedules can change in an instant which means some nights even the best laid plans just aren’t going to fall into place. And that’s ok. Just do your best and keep at it. If it cuts just one foot-stomp and eye-roll from your day…you can consider your efforts successful!