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Elmhurst Relief Workers Will Be Home for Christmas After Missions in Nigeria and New Jersey

Father-daughter duo Mark and Sarah Dyer have been providing aid in Nigeria and New Jersey, respectively, through ShelterBox and FEMA.

Mark and Sarah Dyer will be home for Christmas dinner in Elmhurst—a major feat after the father and daughter duo spent their Thanksgiving holidays on disaster relief missions in Nigeria and New York.

A ShelterBox Response Team member, Mark spent 16 days delivering aid to victims of the worst flooding Nigeria has experienced in 50 years. The disaster drove more than 1 million people from their homes.

“Most of the people in this part of the world live in buildings made out of mud bricks.  When the flood waters hit the buildings, the bricks literally dissolved, causing the homes and structures to just collapse,” Mark said. “Hundreds of thousands of people were left without adequate shelter, and most of the families were just living outside under a tarp.”

ShelterBox Response Teams are highly trained volunteers that respond to natural and manmade disasters by delivering boxes of aid to families in need. Each box includes a disaster relief tent, water purification kit, cook-stoves, blankets and other supplies that help families survive and rebuild their lives in the days, weeks and even months after disasters strike.

This was Mark’s 10th ShelterBox deployment, his third trip to Africa and the third year in a row that he has missed Thanksgiving with his family. In both 2010 and 2011 Mark was deployed to Colombia, South America, when that country was hit by massive flooding following the fall rainy season.

“The flooding was accelerated due to an uncommon La Niña effect which disrupted that country’s weather patterns,” Mark said.

Crisis Back Home

Sarah Dyer has been in New Jersey with the Federal Emergency Management Agency providing aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy since mid-November.

She graduated from University of Missouri last May with a degree in sociology, along with minors in business and women and gender studies.

After spending five weeks this summer teaching English to children in an agricultural province of South Korea, she was planning to get her masters of social work at NYU. But after learning of her acceptance into the Americorps program, she deferred her schooling for the opportunity to work with FEMA in disaster relief.  

She is based in Vinton, Iowa, and received training at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Center for Disaster Preparedness in Anniston, Ala. She is part of an 11-person unit that was originally stationed in Denton, Texas, at the FEMA Region VI headquarters providing administrative support in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac, when Super Storm Sandy hit the east coast. Since that time Sarah has been working out of Fort Dix, N.J., with disaster victims in her role as a public assistance project specialist.

“The power of Superstorm Sandy was really unbelievable. We’ve seen neighborhoods completely demolished," Sarah said. "It is going to take years of hard work until these areas are completely rebuilt. On the positive side, it’s been really amazing to see communities working together to make sure everyone of their neighbors is taken care of.”

It’s safe to say that Mark’s wife, Sue, and son, Eric, will be very happy that all of the Dyers will be home for Christmas.

Source: Elmhurst Rotary

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