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by Michael Mulgrew | November 1, 2012 New York Teacher issue
As the New York Teacher went to press, teams of UFT members were in the some of the hardest-hit neighborhoods, including the Rockaways, Coney Island, Staten Island and Gerritsen Beach, having volunteered to spend Election Day bringing relief to their fellow New Yorkers. At the same time, UFT staff was in contact with nearly 450 members in need of urgent assistance, some having lost their homes and loved ones. Still others were in their schools, working to ensure that buildings receiving displaced students and teachers were ready to welcome them with open arms.
With students still reeling from the disaster returning to their classrooms, educators will now begin the long process of helping them heal, using teachable moments to help the kids process what has happened and make some sense of it all. The work that UFT members do every day is never just about academics.
I sent the following letter to members via email on Nov. 6, on the eve of the return of students from the 46 schools that had suffered structural damage in the storm.
Tomorrow is going to be a very hectic and intense day as our students from the communities that have suffered the most return to school. But I know that you, even those of you dealing with your own losses and trauma, will meet the challenge and be there to offer support for kids and meet the challenges.
I have already seen or heard about countless acts of generosity and compassion as our members volunteered in hurricane shelters as the storm hit and then threw themselves into the relief efforts this past week to get warm clothing, cleaning materials, food and building supplies to the shore neighborhoods that desperately needed them. Just today, thousands of UFT members are spending Election Day volunteering in those communities. Members from Murrow HS, for instance, have fanned out to the Rockaways, Coney Island and Midland Beach, Staten Island, today to do whatever they can. You asked for this opportunity on the UFT Facebook page, and the Department of Education, at our request, gave the green light as long as your principal consented.
But as we take care of our students and communities, we need to take care of each other, too. If you know UFT members who lost loved ones or have been displaced or left homeless as a result of the storm, please ask them to fill out our Urgent Assistance Form online at www.uft.org/sandy-help. If you yourself have suffered such losses, please complete the form, too. UFT reps are reading these forms as they come in and matching our members with the assistance they need as quickly as possible.
If you were among the more fortunate, please consider making a monetary donation to the UFT Disaster Relief Fund for our Hurricane Sandy campaign. Your money will go to fellow UFT members in dire need. Go to www.uft.org/donate/hurricane-sandy-relief to make an online donation or send a check payable to the UFT Disaster Relief Fund to UFT Disaster Relief Fund, c/o Vice President Karen Alford, UFT, 52 Broadway, 14th Floor, New York, NY 10004.
As educators, nurses and child care providers, we dedicate our lives to helping the young, the frail and the vulnerable. Extending ourselves when someone is in need comes naturally. Your actions during these past 10 days have proven that time and again. I could not be more humbled or proud.