Success Out of Disaster
September 2008 was a calamitous month for Texas communities battered by hurricane Ike along the Gulf Coast and by flooding along the Rio Grande, while in far south Texas, coastal towns were still reeling from Hurrican Dolly’s landfall in July. Thousands of families were directly affected and many more were affected indirectly as a consequence of devastated communities. A number of adult education and family literacy programs suffered the impact of the weather disasters. In the midst of the bad news, TCALL received a welcomed phone call: former First Lady Mrs. Barbara Bush who loves adult and family literacy as much as she loves Texas, had instructed the Barbara Bush Texas Fund to identify literacy programs affected by the storms in order to determine how to best help them recover. Thus, the Barbara Bush Disaster Recovery Grants for Texas Literacy Programs were born.
Nine programs, Brazosport College, Clear Creek ISD, College of the Mainland, Literacy Advance of Houston, Lone Star College, Lyford ISD, Pregnancy & Parenting Support Center in Galveston, Presidio ISD, and the Region V Education Service Center, were awarded funds ranging from $8,300 to $20,000 to engage in disaster recovery activities. The projects selected included funding replacement playground equipment; money to replace computers and books where rains damaged the supplies in buildings that had lost their roofs; funds to set up a mobile reading lab to take parent/child reading classes to the community in Galveston; transportation assistance and GED testing scholarships, and recruitment activities to attract new students to areas affected by attrition caused by student displacement.
The awards were limited to recovery activities but the programs that received them have so far been very successful using the money provided to get back on their feet to the extent possible. The short stories below are some of the successes resulting from these efforts.
The Disaster Recovery funds have touched many lives; among them, Logan, a 20 year-old wife and mother of two young children. Her husband worked for a coastal refinery when he was laid-off due to Hurricane Ike. As a result of the lay-off, Logan and her family were forced to move in with her father-in-law. Logan enrolled in the adult education program at Region V Education Service Center and began attending class regularly. Thanks to the Barbara Bush Texas Fund for Family Literacy, Logan received a gas card to assist her in alleviating some of the expense associated with traveling to class, and was one of the first local students to earn a GED in 2009. Logan is a very intelligent young woman and now plans to enroll in nursing school. Logan’s husband is now working, and the adult education staff has provided grant and scholarship information to assist Logan in making the transition to college.
Both Literacy Advance of Houston locations suffered significant damage; the roof was torn off one of their sites and rainwater partially flooded the other site. While insurance covered the structural damage, it did not cover the loss of computers, bookcases, chairs and desks, instructional materials, and office supplies. The Disaster Recovery Funds helped this organization get back in business at a faster pace.
As Ike battered the building, water leaked around the windows of Literacy Advance's headquarters on Wilcrest in Houston. Damage to the walls was significant and mold invaded carpet, furniture, and supplies.
Thanks to the Disaster Recovery Grant, the classrooms at the same location now have new student desks and chairs. The comfortable but old padded chairs were damp and moldy.
In Clear Creek ISD, the Recovery Grant has impacted dozens of lives. After Hurricane Ike, the program had a waiting list of over 50 students, many of whom moved from Galveston to Corpus Christi ISD. With this grant, Clear Creek opened a new class to serve these students who otherwise would have continued to wait and grown more frustrated. One particular family of five brothers moved to this area from Galveston. They had lost their jobs due to Ike and were not able to attend school to learn English. Now they are coming to class every Tuesday and Thursday evening and have been able to find jobs in the area.
For many parents, the Lyford Even Start Program offers a place where their children can learn in a nurturing environment while they attend ESL/GED classes. The school suffered severe damage during September flooding, but thanks to the recovery funds, after spring break, the infants and toddlers were able to enjoy the spring breeze with their parents as they took part in the Parent/Child activity time. By then, the maintenance department had finished making the repairs to the infant/toddler play area. Play time is a wonderful opportunity for parents to interact with their young ones. It is the beginning of a lifetime of learning.
Two programs serving Galveston Island received funding and have formed a partnership to help stretch these funds further. A coalition of community partners is working with College of the Mainland (COM) to offer adult literacy services to the residents who remain on the island and are working to rebuild it. At St. Vincent House, a multi-service community center, COM will offer ESL and GED classes to low-income parents.
Outreach has been provided by the Pregnancy & Parenting Support Center, another grantee. Through the funds, they have acquired space on Galveston Island. But the miraculous part is the power of the name. With the Barbara Bush Texas Fund award, they were able to find a partner who could provide them with this space for less than $0.30 a square foot, utilities included. Students will be able to access primary health care, emergency food support, parenting classes and essential support for infants, including formula and diapers at the same location as they attend classes.
For more information on the Barbara Bush Texas Fund Disaster Recovery Grants, contact Federico Salas-Isnardi at email@example.com