Texas Tech University

HDFS Student Helps Victims of Hurricane Harvey

by Katy McCall

HDFS Student Casey BattenBoats in the streets. Debris and trash everywhere. People's homes and businesses destroyed. This is what happens when the eye of a category 4 hurricane hits Port Aransas.

Casey Batten, a junior Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) student, was an unexpected hero in this crisis. Instead of attending her first week of classes, she was helping people in Port Aransas impacted by Hurricane Harvey, doing her duty as a Senior Airman in the National Guard.

Normally, her responsibilities include two weeks of training in the summer and one weekend of drill every month at her base in Fort Worth. It was during one of these weekends that she was approached about joining Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. The storm hit harder than expected, so she had to rush back to Lubbock to pack up her gear and report to base the following morning.

"Those two days were exhausting and incredibly stressful," Casey said. "I was supposed to start classes on Monday, and had very limited knowledge about where I was going, how long I would be there, or what the conditions would be like."

She was assigned to a Point of Distribution team in Port Aransas, located on an island on the Texas coast. The city sustained some of the worst structural damage from the hurricane.

"The entire island was on curfew, so no one could be there overnight while crews worked to get the power and water working again. People would come in during the day to try and salvage what they could and start cleaning and repairing what was left of their homes."

HDFS Student Casey BattenCasey's team set up a point of distribution at what had been a community pool area. People lined up to get ice, food, water, and other supplies. For those who could not get to them, they sent out a mobile unit to deliver supplies and offer medical attention. Working 12 to 14 hour days, her team was able to help many people in need.

"There was a woman who came through our line asking if we had tents or tarps because she had nowhere to sleep. Her home and car were destroyed and she had no way to get to a shelter."

Fortunately, Casey and her team were able to offer the woman food and water and arrange her transportation to a shelter. In this situation, Casey says that her educational background gave her a unique perspective.

"HDFS puts a lot of emphasis on human behavior and how stress and crisis can affect people. Understanding that on a deeper level helped me connect with people and empathize with what they were going through."

Casey's return to Lubbock the following week was bittersweet. She enjoyed the opportunity to help a community in need and met some amazing people along the way, but was relieved she did not have to drop her classes.

hdfs student casey batten"This experience has really taught me to be grateful for everything I have. After seeing how quickly you can lose everything and start over from basically nothing, I appreciate what I have, where I live, and so much more."