ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Members of a paramedic relief organization are back home in Alaska, after a trip to help victims of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas.
Teresa Gray, founder of relief group, helping Hurricane Harvey victim in Houston, Texas area. (Photo from Mobile Medics International)
Their mission changed in a totally unexpected way, after they arrived in Houston, according to Teresa Gray, founder of Mobile Medics International.
Gray says emergency officials in Texas originally asked for their help, in order to take care of hurricane victims in evacuation shelters.
"When we got there, we found that they were fully staffed and actually impressively organized. The shelters were amazingly organized," said Gray. "And when we found out we weren't needed at the shelters, we then tried to find a place where we were needed."
Gray said they met members of a group that help illegal immigrants in the Houston area, and she says her team of medical volunteers decided to help.
"These people are afraid of the government, and they're not going to go anywhere that's government run, or government organized, because most of them are undocumented," said Gray.
Members of Mobile Medics went into a neighborhood that has a high number of undocumented immigrants.
"Through an interpreter, we would tell them, 'No papers. No fees. No numbers. No names. We don't even want to know your names, but if you're sick, please let us help you.' And slowly, we sort of gained the trust of this neighborhood," she said.
Gray said they provided basic medical care and passed out solar-powered lights, in an area heavily damaged by the hurricane's flood waters.
"In the neighborhoods we ended up in, absolutely nothing was salvageable," Gray said. "The floors had to come up to get the insulation out, and pictures that were hanging on the wall were in the streets that had been completely covered. So nothing was salvageable."
Jenny Dolata, a registered nurse who volunteers with Mobile Medics, said Houston residents appreciated the help that came all the way from Alaska.
"They gave us hugs," Dolata said. "They gave us high-fives and handshakes. And sometimes, that's all it takes to let people know they're not alone."
Gray says members of her organization, who are from Alaska and several other states, are prepared to help victims of Hurricane Irma.
"If Florida needs us, we will go," she said. "If the Bahamas needs us, we will go."
On Monday, Gray said her group is determining if they will head to the Caribbean Islands, an area hit hard by Hurricane Irma.