I awoke this morning to the quiet sounds of rustling bags, as my bunkmates began to prepare for the day ahead. I rolled over to check the time on my phone, I couldn’t believe that it was already 6:00 am. After two days living here at ‘The Base’ as it’s affectionately called, we had all learned the drill. Everyone gets dressed and ready for the day, eats a quick breakfast and prepares their lunch, all before 7:00 am. It’s all a bit chaotic and overwhelming at first, but I think I’m starting to get into the new routine!
We gathered the team for a family photo before we all parted ways to join one of the many workgroups for the day. Today, I was assigned to join a team with Kelly, Lloyd, Tania, Tony and our advisor Kyle. As a photographer, I have the unique opportunity to experience this mission as both a participant, and through the lens of a camera.
We arrived at our job site, and before we began work, we initiated another morning ritual. We performed a series of stretches while standing in a circle and breathing the cool morning air.
As we approached the house, Kyle talked to us about the additional safety precautions we would have to take before entering the property. Much of the house had been severely damaged by the extensive flooding, caused by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Floodwaters had risen to over three feet within the building and had caused irreparable mold damage throughout.
For over two years, the property owners have been living in a temporary trailer installed behind their damaged home by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). I find it difficult to imagine what the property owners must feel each day, while they overlook the uninhabitable building that had once been their home.
We gathered on the patio and fitted our protective eyewear and respirators with N100 filters. These filters are designed to reduce harmful particulates and mold spores from the toxic air we would face. Over the past number of weeks, All Hand All Hearts had made great progress in gutting the contents of this home. Now, we were tasked with treating the newly exposed studs with a chemical sanitizer designed specifically for mold remediation. Lloyd had volunteered to spray this liquid throughout the home. For additional protection, he wore a full-body suit made of Tyvek, to ensure none of the harsh chemicals could accidentally be sprayed onto his skin.
While Lloyd continued his work throughout the house, Kelly, Tania, Tony and I began to cut the vapor barrier to be installed throughout the home. In an environment exposed to such extreme humidity, it is critical to limit the amount of moisture that can enter the building. The vapor barrier forms the first line of defense when preventing the formation of interstitial condensation within the walls.
Once the barrier was in place, the team continued to work together to cut and install thick sheets of fiberglass insulation. Reducing the flow of heat throughout a building can keep energy costs low, so quality insulation is important, even in warm climates like Texas.
As the day progressed the temperatures continued to rise within the home. With no air conditioning and hot respirators covering much of our faces, we need to take several short water breaks throughout the day. High temperatures combined with high humidity, made for very challenging working conditions.
It took a few hours but the team quickly found their rhythm; some cutting vapor barrier, while others installed the barrier and insulation. By the end of the day, the team had managed to install insulation to over 60% of the home. Tomorrow we will return to complete the rest of the insulation and begin the process of installing new drywall.
Everyone left the worksite elated and with a great sense of accomplishment! We tend to live in a world where much of the work we do takes place on screens and within devices. With so much of that work occurring in the digital space, it can often become a challenge to visualize the volume that we accomplish each day.
This project has allowed us a fantastic opportunity to see a slow, but very visible transformation of the space as the day progressed. It feels good to know that soon, one more family in Texas will be able to return to their beloved home.
For many around the world, Hurricane Harvey is a distant memory, forgotten after the floodwaters receded. Unfortunately, the wounds here have not yet healed and many people are still unable to move back into their homes. I feel truly humbled and honored to be part of such a great team that has put forth an incredible effort over the past few days.
I look forward to waking up tomorrow at 6:00 am to continue this important work.