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Local Heroes Make America Great (Always)

by Countable | 10.12.17

What’s the story?

The hurricanes and wildfires hitting American communities in recent months can leave us all feeling hopeless and overwhelmed. Local people and companies are coming together all over, however, to give us hope again.

Here are some stories of helpers, as Mr. Rogers used to call them, to revive you in the midst of the storm:

Volunteers are helping Puerto Rico from home, with a map anyone can edit

Volunteers across the country are updating maps of Puerto Rico remotely in order to help aid workers on the ground get to citizens in remote areas:

"While island officials continued to call for aid this week amid shortages of food, water and other basic necessities, organizations delivering relief are asking for help with a lesser-known resource: map data. In particular, they need more details on the island’s roads and buildings, in part to give them information about who needs help and how to get there.”

"Thousands of people are trying to help, while sitting at their computers hundreds of miles away, logging a clear digital path for aid. About 60 of them gathered at Columbia on Friday, with other universities... holding simultaneous "mapathons” for Puerto Rico on their own campuses.”

"But whether or not someone has ties to the island, mapping can help people understand what’s going on in a more visceral way, It also is a meaningful response at a time that can otherwise feel overwhelming.”

Help pours in for evacuees who escaped fire with horses, other livestock

Wildfires in California are decimating rural areas where ranchers and farmers keep considerable livestock. Residents and organizations are stepping up to offer safe shelter to affected animals:

"Some are saying they lost everything but managed to flee the flames and bring their animals to safety.”

"Many are bringing horses and other livestock to the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa which is sheltering hundreds of evacuated animals, both large and small.”

"And donations are coming in from people all over the Bay Area who want to help.”

Comcast Opens XFINITY WiFi Hotspots To Aid Residents And Emergency Personnel In Northern California

Internet provider Comcast has opened up all their Xfinity Wifi hotspots to the public, free of charge, through Friday, so that residents can keep in touch with family and emergency personnel.

"Due to the impact of wildfires in the North Bay, Comcast is opening its XFINITY WiFi hotspots to help residents and emergency personnel stay connected throughout the Napa and Sonoma County areas. XFINITY WiFi hotspots will remain open to anyone who needs them - including non-XFINITY customers - through Friday, October 13.”

Midwife rides inflatable swan through flood to deliver baby

Midwife Cathy Rude had a client go into labor in the midst of Hurricane Harvey flooding. Her street was too flooded to drive to the birthing center, so she hitched a ride on an inflatable swan:

"As Haley’s labor progressed, she drove with her mother and her husband, Daniel, to attempt to pick Rude up in their truck. When they arrived in Rude’s neighborhood, however, they learned that it would be impossible to get down the street due to the floodwaters. After being unable to get in touch with friends who owned a kayak, Haley spotted a woman on a large, white swan drifting down the flooded street.”

"Andrea yelled out the window of the truck and said, ‘Hey, would you be willing to give my midwife a ride so she can deliver my baby?’" said Rude.”

"A midwife is not just a care provider, she’s your friend," said Rude. “So of course, she wanted me to be there. I think she was appreciative, but I don’t think she was very surprised, because as midwives, that’s just what we do.”

CBS News reporter David Begnaud has done some of the most impressive on the ground reporting following Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Here’s an interview posted on Twitter that he conducted with a group of veterans currently working in western Puerto Rico. They are getting aid to citizens trapped in the mountains, risking their lives to get supplies past mudslides and to mark drop sites for relief helicopters to safely drop aid in remote areas.

CBS’s David Begnaud Opens Up About His 34 Days Covering 3 Hurricanes

Begnaud is not a "local hero", but he's drawn attention to many of them. And he's been pretty heroic himself while moving straight from covering Hurricane Harvey, to Hurricane Irma, to Hurricane Maria:

"TVNewser: Journalists are on the ground to observe and report. But you’re also human, and these are extraordinary circumstances. How did you separate the two?”

"Begnaud: As a journalist, I think you can ask questions that can get help and answers for people without putting a bottle of water or a piece of food in someone’s hand. One example is when we went to the airport in San Juan, there were 1,000 people laying on the ground. I asked them where the food and water was, and they said there was none. So I then spoke to the governor, who said: "I saw your report last night, and I ordered food and supplies to the airport.” I responded by saying, “Well I was just there, and there isn’t enough.” He then told me he would make a phone call, and within an hour it got there. The point is that you don’t have to get involved in the story to help. You can simply ask the questions. I don’t think that’s involving yourself too much, I think that’s being a good human being.”

What are you seeing and hearing?

What sorts of stories are you seeing or hearing (or experiencing!) where people are stepping up to help other people in the midst of these disasters? What stories are giving you hope in people and in America?

Tell us in the comments what you think, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Misha2017 via Twitter)

Countable

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