Answering the Call

For the last 25 years, Michele Devlin, a professor of global health, has served as a disaster relief volunteer with the American Red Cross. She has also become part of the International Response Team for the American Red Cross, which has led to her being deployed to Haiti and the Philippines in response to earthquakes and Hurricane Yolanda, respectively.

So when Hurricane Harvey struck Houston, Texas, Michele was not far behind.

As a member of the International Red Cross, she was assigned to provide public health support to the Health Services Team of the Harvey Relief Operations. Michele helped identify vulnerable populations affected by the disaster with special cultural, language and economic barriers to relief services, as she coordinated culturally appropriate relief services and resources to best aid those areas in the wake of the hurricane.

“The entire experience was very intense,” Michele said. “It was very concerning to see so many people in need in Houston that had yet to be able to access assistance.

“The sheer scale of the disaster was massive.”

But as horrific as it was to witness the carnage that had been wrought, Michele was impressed with how Houston residents came together to help each other survive and recover.

“There was a lot of unity among residents in the fourth largest city in the United States.”

UNI students help out in HoustonThere were even eight UNI student teachers placed in the Houston area when the Category 4 hurricane made landfall back in August. When the start of the school was delayed, the students volunteered in the community through nonprofit organizations and at donation centers.

Three UNI students in the health promotion program, on the global health and humanitarian assistance track, have also volunteered with disaster relief efforts. Emily Dvorak, a sophomore, was deployed to the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of Hurricane Maria; Alba Aguillon, a graduate student and physician from Colombia, is volunteering in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria; and Kitana Pickett, a junior, traveled to Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

The impact of these Panthers’ service and dedication extends well beyond the campus at UNI.