Youth Programs Recovering From Ike

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Hurricane Ike left youth service organizations across parts of the South scrambling to reopen storm-damaged facilities last month and to re-establish contacts with workers and youths.

Ike displaced more than 1 million residents in Texas and surrounding states; volunteers at several evacuation centers estimated that half of those displaced were children.

More than 10 days after the storm hit, only two of 15 Boys & Girls Clubs in the Houston area had reopened. The other sites did not have power and had varying amounts of damage, according to John Harvard, president of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston.

Harvard stressed the importance of helping the youths recover from the trauma caused by the hurricane. “The second we get electricity back, we’ll open full force,” he said. “We want to be a relief for the children victims to get them to have some fun after being cooped up inside with nothing to do.”

The Houston office of Big Brother Big Sisters of America was closed for 10 days after the storm. Although the facility suffered a leaky roof and minor damage, the damage to the organization’s network of mentors and mentees might prove more daunting.

The match support office that keeps track of meetings between bigs and littles did not have phone or Internet service while the office was closed, and many of the mentors and youths didn’t have power or Internet access either. Rob Walters, the organization’s local director of marketing and communications, sent e-mails to the 1,700 volunteers urging them to reach out to the youths they mentor.

“We want to make sure they contact their littles, make sure they are OK and help them with the recovery process,” Walter said.