Hurricane Florence has wreaked havoc upon the North Carolina coast after hitting this month. After the disaster, many citizens were displaced and are still wary of returning, due to the amount of damage in the area. People are afraid and uncertain of the fate of their homes and communities, especially those who do not have the freedom to start over.

University of North Carolina-Wilmington students, Wes Porter and Jaz Vanscoy, didn’t want their community to be victims of circumstance and uncertainty, so they started “We Wilm Rebuild,” a grassroots nonprofit dedicated to post-hurricane relief efforts in the Wilmington area.

“We wanted to affect people that the hurricane directly hit. We wanted to start something that people would believe in and that people could have a direct impact on,” said Porter.

So far, Porter and Vanscoy’s organization has received mass amounts of support. “We Wilm Rebuild” has received nearly $6000 in donations through GoFundMe, plus additional thousands of dollars in the form of goods and supplies.

However, even with help from nonprofits, like “We Wilm Rebuild,” states affected by Hurricane Florence have their work cut out for them. Damages from the storm have been estimated to be up to $50 billion.

It really seems like America can’t catch a break. For the past three years, the U.S. mainland has been hit with hurricane after hurricane. Now there’s nothing we can do to control the nasty weather; it’s not like there’s some all-powerful hippie out there doing a magical rain dance we can blame. Who we can blame though is the government and their response (or lack thereof) to natural disasters. After all, how the nation responds is literally one of the only things that we human beings have control of.

When it comes to exerting control over disaster-response, we expect the government (you know, the one with the $4.4 trillion budget) to be the one responding to these disasters. The problem is though, the government’s been pretty shitty at handling relief, especially hurricane relief, for the past 15 or so years.

We already have Change.org, the “world’s largest petition platform,” sending out emails asking people about their treatment during Hurricane Florence, urging them to start a petition if they’re facing “unfair circumstances” following the disaster. They know what’s coming, and we expect the Federal Emergency Management Agency, also known as FEMA, to deliver it to them.

Since the monstrosity of Katrina, where FEMA was bashed for its incredibly slow efforts and questionable practices, such as blocking Walmart from delivering water and stopping civilian-aircraft evacuation attempts, there’s been little faith in the agency’s ability to handle disasters and the government’s ability to respond. In the eyes of many, FEMA is somewhat of a joke with people feeling relief efforts would be better handled by civilians.

Need I look no further than Travie McCoy’s 2009 banger “Billionaire” where he raps, “I’d probably visit where Katrina hit, and damn sure do a lot more than FEMA did.” Love when a middle school-era rapper has more common sense than the officials we elect to protect us.

As simple as Travie’s lyric is, I’m sure most of us would say the same thing: If we had billions of dollars, we could go to the sites of Matthew, Irma, Harvey, Maria, and Florence, and fix the issues a lot better than the government.

Luckily, we have nonprofits that are working to address these problems. People care about others, and they’re willing to put in their time, labor, and money to help. Where the government lacks, civil society picks up. Just look at The Global Giving Foundation; it’s already raised roughly $80,000 for Hurricane Florence relief, and that’s only one foundation.

So, let’s pat ourselves on the back for a second; we as citizens are pretty cool when it comes to helping each other out. If America has one thing to be proud of, it’s our nonprofit culture.

That said, we have to be on the government’s ass for what it’s not doing. It’s their job to fix these issues; that’s why we pay taxes. It’s not acceptable Puerto Rico went 11 months without power after Hurricane Maria. It’s also not acceptable that we EXPECT the government to slack off with relief everytime a natural disaster ruins lives and communities.

It’s time we demand that disaster relief is done right!

FEMA, step the fuck up.

Alex Rouhandeh
alexrouhandehjerk@gmail.com
Alex J. Rouhandeh is a junior from Chicago, Illinois studying Citizenship & Civic Engagement, Policy Studies and Magazine. Outside of Jerk, Alex is involved with the University Senate and the Disability Student Union. He also works as a caller at SU’s fundraising center, The Fund for Syracuse. Jerk is the first publication that Alex has worked for, and he is excited to let his jerkieness out!

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