Finding Relief—and Family—in the Wake of Texas's Wintry Mess

March 1, 2021 • United States

Samaritan’s Purse volunteers work to help Texas homeowners recover after February’s devastating winter storms.

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As Austin, Texas, resident Netsi Akalu opened the door to her home of ten years, several inches of water poured from the ceiling. With it, came a flood of emotions.

“I saw that the water was coming from the ceiling, the living room, my bedroom, and my baby’s bedroom,” Netsi said. “Two and a half inches of water; I was emotional, I was shocked.”

Samaritan's Purse volunteers are working hard to clean up water-damaged homes in Austin, Texas.

Samaritan’s Purse volunteers are working hard to clean up water-damaged homes in Austin, Texas.

Samaritan’s Purse is helping families—including Netsi’s—in Houston and Austin, Texas, after communities endured record-low temperatures and an ice/snow storm in February that disrupted power grids and water systems and displaced thousands of families. Many went nearly one week without access to electricity, heat, or basic necessities only to return home to find downed trees and burst pipes.

Each day, Samaritan’s Purse volunteer teams are going out into the hardest-hit communities to help clear debris, remove trees and waterlogged drywall, and salvage personal belongings while reminding homeowners that they are not forgotten.

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Volunteers, Like Family, Help to Shoulder the Load

Netsi felt terribly alone in the wake of the storm and its aftermath. Long days of no power or heat only added to the pressing responsibilities of being a single mom to her 4-year-old daughter Miriam.

“She had been complaining, ‘Mommy, I’m cold,’” Netsi said of Miriam. “Seeing her suffering like that, it hurts.”

Netsi Akalu and her  daughter are recovering after burst pipes caused flooding in their home.

Netsi Akalu and her daughter are recovering after burst pipes caused flooding in their home.

Netsi covered herself and her daughter in blankets and huddled around candlelight—attempting to desperately warm themselves as temperatures plummeted. Even changing Miriam’s diaper was a challenging task as Netsi had to warm the baby wipes before they froze.

She eventually had to go to a hotel. When she came back to her house to inspect the damage, she found everything she has worked so hard for saturated with water.

“Being a single mom is not easy, especially if you don’t have family—like me,” Netsi said. “By itself, this was a challenge and now the storm has caused this kind of crisis.”

Volunteers work on Netsi's Texas home.

Volunteers work on Netsi’s Texas home, damaged as a result of recent winter weather.

Netsi’s family remains in Ethiopia where she left more than a decade ago to come to the United States. Though she is accustomed to being independent and raising Miriam alone, it was moments like these that made her desperately wish she had a support system alongside her.

“I’ve never had someone be with me during my difficult times,” Netsi said.

Samaritan’s Purse volunteers showed up at Netsi’s home ready to relieve some of the physical burdens she faces. Yet, as they worked, they helped lift some of her emotional burdens as well—becoming shoulders for her to lean on during this challenging time.

“I get emotional and they make me feel happy and I’m not lonely anymore—I have someone like Samaritan’s Purse people who pray for me and I know that God is with me,” she said.

Samaritan's Purse are worke quickly to remove waterlogged ceilings.

Samaritan’s Purse worked quickly to remove waterlogged ceilings.

Samaritan’s Purse volunteers returned a sense of ‘family’ to Netsi as she endured this difficult season. Believers from across the country, dressed in orange, were able to remind her that God loves her and she is not alone. They worked hard to remove waterlogged ceilings, insulation, and other materials and helped Netsi retrieve other belongings. This should speed the process of her return home—right now, she’s still in a hotel with her daughter.

“Samaritan’s Purse, they make it like I am family.”

Teams of our volunteers continue to work in Houston and Austin, Texas, and in northwest Oregon to help families recover in the wake of this year’s ice storms. Please pray for their work as they minister in Jesus’ Name.

“God bless you all,” Netsi said to Samaritan’s Purse volunteers. “Thank you for being there for people like me, being there for me as a single mom—it means a lot to me.”

If you’d like to volunteer in Texas or Oregon, find out more information at SPVolunteer.org.

Samaritan's Purse volunteers pray with Netsi at the conclusion of their work on her home.

Samaritan’s Purse volunteers pray with Netsi at the conclusion of their work on her home.

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U.S. Disaster Relief Samaritan's Purse mobilizes and equips thousands of volunteers to provide emergency aid to U.S. victims of wildfires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. In the aftermath of major storms, we often stay behind to rebuild houses for people with nowhere else to turn for help.

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