A sneak peek inside our newest program, Humanist Disaster Recovery Teams


2015 will witness the launch of Foundation Beyond Belief's Humanist Disaster Recovery Teams (HDR Teams), the first humanist disaster recovery volunteer program created to provide nontheists an avenue to assist impacted communities when disaster strikes.

Many have seen tornado survivor Rebecca Vitsmun speaking about this program over the last year, as she utilizes her background in volunteer coordination and pours hundreds of volunteer hours into the program's development as HDR Teams Development Coordinator, but you may not know about the rest of our HDR Teams family.

First up is Samantha Montano, a doctoral student studying disaster management.  In addition to her current doctoral work, she holds a master’s degree in Emergency Management and a bachelor of science in psychology.  Samantha serves as HDR coordinator, lending her expertise and creating fluidity between FBB's three HDR subprograms: HDR Drive (formerly Crisis Response), HDR Network, and HDR Teams.

Next is Louise VandeWiele, whose 30 years of experience with nonprofits, and 15 years leading disaster relief programs, as well as her experience training volunteers on the ground with the Red Cross, have prepared her for her position as HDR Teams program manager, where she write the training modules and materials for HDR Teams' volunteers.

Finally is Randi Gottlieb, M.A., LMFT, who has more than 30 years of experience working with children, teens, adults, and families, as well as experience working as a trauma specialist, providing on-site crisis intervention in response to suicides, shootings, robberies, accidents, and natural disasters.  All of this makes her uniquely prepared her for her role as HDR Teams trauma consultant.

In late Spring, HDR Teams will begin to offer online training to volunteers from across the country. From this pool of volunteers, team leaders will be chosen to represent their regions. This training will lead to HDR Teams’ initial deployment of a relatively small team with a secular partnering organization, to test their training protocols and systems.

HDR Teams will be working with a philosophy of Survivor First. Every survivor goes through a different and individual experience after a disaster, and it is HDR Teams' position to place the focus on every aspect of that experience. HDR Teams' goal is to be at the service of survivors, not ourselves. By following this philosophy, HDR Teams will aim to bring an end to treating any survivor like an opportunity.

While there are a number of disaster recovery organizations throughout the country, HDR Teams is unique, not only for our secular-humanist worldview, but for being an evidence-based program. Hand in hand with this evidence, we will provide our volunteers with the Community Resiliency Model (CRM) for dealing with the traumatic experience of being involved in a disaster.

CRM was suggested by HDR Teams Trauma Consultant Randi Gottlieb, who will be training our volunteers in how to utilize this evidence-based biological model to calm the central nervous system of not only themselves, but any member of the community they come into contact with who could benefit from its usage.

HDR Teams will then be prepared to launch a second, larger deployment when needed to fine-tune our program. We will be using the information gathered from these deployments to improve and prepare for what we hope to be an ever-growing program for the nontheistic community.

To sign up for HDR Teams, please visit our website. If you have any questions or comments, please send them to hdrteams@foundationbeyondbelief.org.

If you can't wait to see this program in action in 2015, please click here to donate today.