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Jun 3, 2019

We were all stuck, just stuck.

“We were all stuck, just stuck.”

Shortly before Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina September 2018, Alicia had packed her family and whatever essential belongings they could decide in a matter of hours, to travel to stay with her parents in Tennessee.

Alicia and her husband have two children with special needs, and were expecting their third child, with her due date approaching within a month after the hurricane’s predicted arrival. 

“We couldn’t chance me staying at home, especially at a category 4,” she said. “My husband had to stay behind because of work. It was a difficult decision, but what we felt was safest and best for our family with the information we had available to us.”

The storm brought more rain in a few days than normally hits the state in months, Alicia said. It caused so much flooding that her town was like an island. 

“There was no way in or out,” she said. “My next door neighbors stayed and you couldn’t get anywhere, we were surrounded by water in every direction within a miles distance. They were trapped in and we were all trapped out. A road could be clear and within thirty minutes it would be completely washed away. Travel was scary and unpredictable in that first week or so after the initial impact.”

After about a week, Alicia’s husband found a way out by chance and took it. The road he traveled to her was flooded less than an hour after he left.

“It was a hopeless feeling,” she said.

When her family evacuated their home, they had to make quick decisions about what to bring and leave behind. 

“When we evacuated, we could only bring what would fit in my van and my husband’s car,” she said. “Clothing, memories, toys, etc. — and those decisions had to be made within a couple of hours, it wasn’t something that we could plan.  … I brought the newborn clothes for the baby, but left our special needs sized fluff (cloth diapers) and one size fluff because there was no room.”

It wasn’t possible for Alicia to return home and await her baby’s arrival – the hospitals near their house were inaccessible and damaged. Alicia and her family used Jake’s Diapers Individual Aid cloth diaper loan program to make it through those difficult months.

“It was safer to deliver away from home, which still makes me sad,” she said. “After baby was born and healthy, we moved in with my in-laws. As far as support, there wasn’t much out there, people love to help the first week or two after a disaster, but then quickly disappear, the problem is that there was so much damage, that there was still so much to be done after that first couple of weeks. We leaned on family for emotional support and worked hard.”

About 3.5 months after their abrupt departure, Alicia and her family returned to their home. They needed a new roof, mold mitigation, new floors, ceilings and walls. It still needs minor repairs but it is livable and safe, she said. 

“The diapers (from Jake’s Diapers) helped cut expenses, it was especially helpful due to the added expenses of having to rebuild, replace and live in shelter other than our home,” she said.

Despite everything, Alicia feels blessed to be back under her own roof.

“It was … challenging finding a legitimate contractor who could fix all of these things,” she said. “There was so much wide spread damage, that there are still homes that haven’t been touched 6 months later. We are lucky to have our home.”

Thank you for helping Alicia and many other families like hers. 

~ Stephanie


Jun 3, 2019

What can a diaper really do?

Things have always been tough for many in Puerto Rico, with poverty affecting nearly half the population (the current rate is 43.5 percent).

Since Hurricane Maria hit in 2017, many in the U.S. territory saw their lives take a downward turn.

Like one Puerto Rico family we heard from recently. The Louisa told us her son is autistic, has schizophrenia and ADHD — and that Hurricane Maria was life-changing for them.

“He has a really hard time as he can’t communicate, and doesn’t know how to express feelings and emotions,” she said. “He’s been learning lots in school and he’s brilliant. We have had our ups and downs. But for him, it was hard the day after the hurricane, as he couldn’t recognize his environment. And he had to move from school, and basically (that) changed everything.” 

Her son needs a caregiver 24/7, so she is unable to work struggles to make ends meet. We know how to change a life forever, too: with the gift of diapers.

“I couldn’t afford his diapers, meds, food and basic needs,” she said. “With these diapers, I’ve been able to not only provide all of those, but I can also give him lots more care rides that he enjoys a lot." 

Thanks for helping Louisa!

~ Stephanie

May 14, 2019

Thanks for helping babies!

A woman traveled from around the world with her family of eight, seeking a safe place to raise her children. The family had lived in a refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo for many years; when they left, her youngest was just eight months old.

The family’s final destination would be a community in Pima County, Southern Arizona, a region in the northernmost section of the Sonoran Desert. Many indigenous families live here, and it is a popular place for refugee families from Africa and the Middle East. This in part because of the weather and the affordable cost of living, said Leslie of the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona.

The area, however, is also riddled with hardship: 1 in 3 children in Pima County are living in poverty; families not living in poverty most often live paycheck to paycheck.

“It’s notoriously hot for 6 months of the year, our winters are temperate,” Leslie said. “The climate … attracts families who struggle economically. You can survive a winter here, even if you cannot afford to heat, or are homeless.”

The Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona currently serves Pima and 9 other surrounding counties. It works in partnership with the University of Arizona’s Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology (BARA) on providing resources to such families, tracking the impact and collecting recipient feedback, Leslie said. Through this partnership and with the help of Jake’s Diapers, the diaper bank launched a pilot program to provide cloth diaper kits to interested families, providing a sustainable solution to families who struggle with chronic diaper shortage.

The refugee resettlement process is a stressful time for mothers, Leslie said. Within just 3 to 6 months, refugees must become financially self-sufficient, an especially difficult task for parents balancing both their own and their children’s needs.

“Meeting the needs of your child during the resettlement process can be an emotional experience because there are few choices parents get to make on behalf of their children’s material needs,” Leslie said. “This is because clothing, diapers and other necessities are donated to them or bought for them through the government. Until recently, refugee parents had to use disposable diapers because there was no cloth option provided to them.”

With the donation of cloth diaper kits from Jake’s Diapers, the diaper bank was able to immediately provide cloth kits to families in starting its pilot program with BARA, Leslie said. Jake’s Diapers’ continued support has made it possible to carry on with the pilot with BARA, include more families in the research, and develop a strategy for the development of a cloth distribution program.

More than 40 families have been using the kits, she said, and have been reporting economic relief, and a significant reduction in family stress, as they are never OUT of diapers.

The mother who traveled with her children from that refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo had only used cloth diapers and revealed obvious relief with the donation.

“When she was given the cloth diaper kit, her eyes brimmed with tears, noting how ‘beautiful’ her new cloth kit was,” according to BARA researchers. “She was overjoyed that her baby could be kept in cloth diapers. She was holding her baby and smiling as she walked away with her new cloth kit.”


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