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A Volunteer’s Story: Disaster Response

July 3, 2024
Ben Dykstra is a volunteer with World Renew Disaster Response Services.
Ben Dykstra is a volunteer with World Renew Disaster Response Services.
Photo: World Renew

When Ben Dykstra decided to sign up as a World Renew volunteer seven years ago, he began a journey of restoring hope and making an impact in communities across North America.

A resident of the Chicago area, Dykstra embarked on one of his first volunteer trips in 2017 to Port Arthur, Texas, where Hurricane Harvey had devastated a low-lying bayou with intense flooding, claimed several lives, and caused billions of dollars’ worth of damage.

That trip involved a “muck and gut” project for homes affected by the hurricane. “Muck and gut” refers to the process of removing mud, silt, and similar materials (mucking) and removing damaged drywall, insulation, floorboards, and other construction-related materials (gutting) as one of the first steps in rebuilding flooded homes.

Dykstra said he didn’t know any of the other volunteers on his team when the trip began. But after two weeks of working together to restore homes in Texas, he built new relationships and felt encouraged to keep volunteering.

Now, seven years later, Dykstra affirms that a meaningful aspect of volunteer work with World Renew is indeed building relationships—especially by walking alongside people in communities affected by disasters and helping them renew their lives.

“One of the things that’s most important is to build relationships with the folks that are on site—the people who have lived through the storms or the disaster—and hear their stories,” Dykstra said.

Volunteering with World Renew doesn’t involve a long-term commitment, but many volunteers like Dykstra remain committed to the work and continue to join trips that make a lasting impact.

“You can go with a group of friends, you can go with your church, or you can just show up yourself like I did and give it a try,” Dykstra said.

He hopes to encourage new volunteers to join World Renew and lend their time to make a difference after disasters.

“I’ll guarantee that you’re going to be touched by the people you touch and that the work is going to be meaningful for you,” Dykstra said.

No matter a volunteer’s skillset, lending time and talents as a volunteer with World Renew will have a lasting reach.  

This fall, World Renew has volunteer openings for individual adults, couples, or church groups to be the hands and feet of Jesus and to help in areas affected by disasters around North America. These one-week trips include home repair and cleanup projects that give vulnerable homeowners a chance to rebuild their lives.

Learn more and sign up at world