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The Inertia

Watch and share this video above about Jon Rose and Waves for Water’s contributions to the Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts. KIND will donate an additional $1 to the renovation project for each view.

After Hurricane Sandy, Jon Rose and his organization Waves for Water was one of the first groups that really made a difference in New York and New Jersey. They became became a focal point for local residents and volunteers to rally around, coordinating the best ways to utilize Waves for Water’s resources. Almost a year on, and Waves for Water is still in the affected areas helping local residents rebuild and get back on their feet. I sat down with Jon to discuss the post-Sandy progress:

Tyler Breuer: Where do we stand right now in New York’s reconstruction effort right now?

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Jon Rose: Well, I don’t have our exact numbers, but we’re up in the double digits of restored/rebuild projects that are underway or have been completed. So I’d say it’s in the 50 to 70 range. That’s including houses, small businesses, community centers, a firehouses and Boys and Girls Clubs. We basically go in and look at these places that need a number of things, then pick the most pressing things to address. We’ve probably written twenty or thirty grants-  small grants that go to small businesses or individual residents, to help them with whatever they need. Those people that qualify for that grant are really at their wit’s end. They might need to pay off their credit cards or put it towards a new floor, or their rent or whatever. It’s really to just help and uplift them to a place where they are a little more balanced.

Do you think you feel like you’ve been on target with what your goals were when you first got here?

I think we’ve been better than on target. I’m really happy with the impact we’ve been making – we’ve done a lot with a little. We’ve got a lot of support, but in comparison to the big organizations out there that have been getting millions and millions of dollars… You know, I always said since day one, you can make $100,000 look like a million or you can make a million look like a thousand. So, I think we’ve done a good job of really stretching the resources that we have as far as they can go. But it’s not as one-dimensional as giving somebody a grant, or helping them get their electrical back. You’re helping this person get their electrical back, and a big furniture donation and refurnished their house. At the end of the day, you’re able to really get them back on their feet.

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What lessons have you learned so far from this? Was there anything that has surprised you and taught you something new that you didn’t know before?

To be honest, I’m learning stuff every day. I’m make mistakes and I learn from them – but this is the first domestic project we’ve ever done. I normally operate in countries where I can do anything. It’s easier. There’s an obvious need and an obvious problem, and we feel like there are somewhat obvious solutions. That’s the way we’ve always worked. Here, we still work that way, but I’ve had to navigate through bureaucracies more. I’ve had to try and dance on that line between being completely under the radar, but also establishing credibility.

How are you doing that?

There’s a nuance with the whole thing.  I don’t know if I’ve learned it, exactly, but I’ve refined it because of the nature of all the rules we have here. I don’t I want to be under the radar, but I don’t want to be way out there, because it brings more attention, and then you get slowed down. To me, it’s pretty simple: there are people who have basic needs and there are three to five solutions that will work for those needs. There’s really nothing else to talk about. You just need to do it.

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