Anisah Khan lives from disaster to disaster. She and her team at IRUSA help Americans prepare for them and recover from them. She talks about how it all goes down — and the best rewards of this work — with B.C. and Mordant on this week’s “What a Relief!” podcast.
Anisah, based in California, is the regional coordinator for IRUSA’s Disaster Response Team. She trains volunteers to assist in disasters and then deploys them when they’re needed.
Volunteers learn basic skills of CPR and first aid. They take Red Cross classes on shelter fundamentals and disaster assessments. And they learn emotional care and individual case work in IRUSA’s own classes. Then, when a disaster occurs — often earthquakes or floods in her region — they head out to help. Most often, they assess damage or staff the Red Cross shelters.
“We’re the only Muslim organization partnering with the Red Cross,” she says. “We work directly with them in disasters. They’re on the ground and we operate right beside them.”
Anisah recently got back from a deployment in Garland, Texas, where her team helped clean up debris and gave out cash assistance after a devastating tornado there. She tells of working with a team, passing bricks to the curb at a flattened house, when a volunteer found something special to give to the homeowner — a birth certificate.
“It’s crazy because it was raining the days after the tornado so everything was soaking wet,” she said. “The birth certificate just happened to be in mint condition, and it was his son’s birth certificate … He was so excited about that.”
Not many of the people helped by the Disaster Response Team — DRT for short — are Muslim. The team is there to help anyone in need.
“When we were set up at the [resource center], a lot of people were passing our table,” Anisah said. “And we would have to chase them down and ask, ‘Hey, were you affected? We really want to help you.’ And they were like, ‘Yeah we were affected, but we didn’t really know if we could come to your table.’ And we said, ‘Come on by! We would love to hear your story and get you some help if we can.’ So, good experience — everybody coming together. It was really nice.”
Mordant thinks it all sounds pretty awesome.
“Sounds like adventure,” he says. “… All of you adrenaline junkies or thrill seekers — if you want to look for something different that you can go out and create a new adventure where you’re actually helping people out, throw yourself for a little bit of time at this. The disaster response team, where you’re in the mix of things that are going on in this country and you’re affecting people’s lives.”
On this week’s podcast, find out how people become volunteers and how it jives with work and college schedules.
Find out what surprises the volunteers, and what Anisah finds most rewarding.
Find out some surprise big names she’s met through her deployments.
Find out why this podcast was postponed the first time they tried recording it.
Find out if Carl is too pretty for this too.
Oh, and find out which European country has a high number of “What a Relief!” listeners. Shout out to our listeners all over the world!
“What a Relief!” is the official podcast of Islamic Relief USA. Co-hosted by social media specialist B.C. Dodge, and Mordant Mahon, IRUSA’s “What a Relief!” puts a human face on what’s going on in the world and how you can enact positive change in it. New episodes every week!