Since Day One with Cajun Navy, Humbled Volunteer Steadies Survivors with Hope

This CrowdRelief Disaster Helpers Story was created for helper Michelle Szinavel. 03/07/2019 10:54 AM

Volunteer: Michelle Szinavel
Zello name: Chewy2017
From: Shelton, CT
Disasters Worked: Louisiana Flood 2016, Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria, Hurricane Florence, Hurricane Michael, California Fires, 2019 Tennessee Flooding, 2019 Alabama Tornado

When I first started with Cajun Navy Foundation, I was just going to post articles and messages to help people get information; but when I began taking care of the inbox, it really opened my eyes. I spoke with people needing rescue, family members, people who wanted to help, boaters and others who just wanted to say thank you. I try to put myself in their shoes and to keep them calm. I am here to help the dispatchers so they can help people.

I have been working with Rob Gaudet the entire time. He asked if I could help, and I never left. During Hurricane Harvey, I answered hundreds of people wanting to volunteer and hundreds of others looking for help. I also posted a lot of information on the group pages. Then during these last few storms, I mostly took care of training new volunteers on how to use Noggin while I continued with social media.

I'm not a disaster survivor at all. I am always amazed to see everyone's stories and what they have gone through - and still they make the effort to volunteer. They have lost their homes and yet they want to help others. I admire them so much, and it’s humbling. It breaks my heart when I see these disasters - the lives lost, the homes destroyed, families having to leave their communities and sometimes each other to live with other family members. People often feel embarrassed and are afraid to ask for help.

It gives me hope, knowing that no matter how bad things are there is someone who will drop everything to help.I love seeing people reaching out to each other and communities banding together. The hard part is when the cameras go away. We have to keep people engaged and coming in to volunteer on the ground when it’s time to rebuild. That’s what Cajun Navy Foundation and CrowdRelief are all about. We keep reminding people that there is still a need. I know a lot of people want to get in their boats and come rescue, and we need that, but we need them to come afterwards, too.

Michelle Szinavel

Tropical Storm Imelda Disaster Helper
Disaster
Tropical Storm Imelda

This person's information has been vetted and approved by the Cajun Navy Foundation.