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Equal Justice Works Joins National Partners for the Fourth Annual Disaster Resilience Awareness Month

/ Press Release

Equal Justice Works, American Bar Association (ABA) Standing Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness, the ABA Young Lawyers Division’s Disaster Legal Services Program, American Red Cross, Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP), Legal Services Corporation, Pro Bono Net, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), and the World Institute on Disability have teamed up to raise awareness for disaster resilience this March. 

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 28, 2024 Equal Justice Works, the nation’s largest facilitator of opportunities in public interest law, announced today that ABA Standing Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness, the ABA Young Lawyers Division’s Disaster, Legal Services Program, Pro Bono Net, American Red Cross, Center for Disaster Philanthropy, Legal Services Corporation, National VOAD, and the World Institute on Disability will take part in the fourth annual Disaster Resilience Awareness Month this March. 

Equal Justice Works created Disaster Resilience Awareness Month in 2021 as a collaborative effort to call attention to disaster-related challenges, provide resources for survivors and advocates, and highlight the important role that legal professionals play in disaster preparedness, recovery, and resilience efforts. This year, national partners will join Equal Justice Works in spearheading an education campaign to highlight the important role legal professionals play in helping communities navigate disasters.

Throughout Disaster Resilience Awareness Month, Fellows in the Equal Justice Works Disaster Resilience Program will share their expertise and information on the legal services available to disaster survivors and best practices to advocate for communities recovering from the legal effects of disasters. Topics will include the short and long-term needs of immigrant communities recovering from disasters; issues that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) housing communities experience with extreme heat events; and the complications that often arise from the aftermath of hurricanes; among other disaster-related legal matters.   

“In the four years since launching Disaster Resilience Awareness Month, the frequency and severity of disasters have only increased —from devastating wildfires and brutal heat to intense hurricanes and extreme flooding. In the face of increasing threats to our climate, the communities most impacted must have access to a lawyer to overcome barriers to recovery and secure their wellbeing,” said Verna Williams, CEO of Equal Justice Works. “The burden of hardship in the wake of climate disaster falls disproportionately on lower income communities and communities of color, exacerbating inequality. We are proud to work with our coalition partners to call for greater investment in disaster resilience as both a strategy to address climate change and combat racial injustice.”  

In the face of increasing threats to our climate, the communities most impacted must have access to a lawyer to overcome barriers to recovery and secure their wellbeing.

Verna Williams /
CEO, Equal Justice Works

“The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is proud to join Equal Justice Works and other national partners to highlight the critical importance of disaster resilience. As the frequency and severity of natural disasters continues to increase, LSC-funded legal aid organizations provide critical civil legal services to low-income disaster survivors,” said Lynn Jennings, vice president for grants management at LSC. “By empowering people to prepare for disasters, understand their risks and access available resources, we can build resilient communities before disaster strikes. LSC and our partners have gathered disaster information on two websites. Heartland Disaster Help provides essential information for residents across ten states in America’s heartland that have faced significant flooding, windstorms, extreme heat and wildfires over the past decade. The Legal Aid Disaster Resource Center offers comprehensive resources to assist legal services organizations, courts, individuals, and communities in preparing for and responding to disasters.”    

“We are proud to be participating in Disaster Resilience Awareness Month again this year,” said Robert Sofaly, Long-Term Recovery Director with the American Red Cross. “A focus on resilience is so important. It’s not just about responding in the immediate aftermath, as we do with our shelters and feeding operations, but also about ensuring communities have the support they need to be prepared and resilient before the next disaster strikes.” 

“Having spent decades in this work, I have witnessed firsthand how response, recovery and resiliency are all intertwined,” said Nicole Behnam, vice president of strategy, innovation and special projects of CDP. “During this Disaster Resilience Awareness Month, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy is proud to support Equal Justice Works in highlighting the need to invest in building resilience, especially among marginalized communities, so that they can recover stronger and thrive after disasters.” 

“Implementing, monitoring, and enforcing the civil rights protections of people with disabilities, (27% of adults in the US), is key to resilience for all,” said Marcie Roth, WID’s Executive Director and CEO. “True community resilience can only be achieved when the whole community is involved before, during and after disasters.” 

“Our communities are stronger and more resilient when we invest in preparedness, and every legal professional has a role to play in these efforts” said Liz Keith, Chief Partnerships Officer at Pro Bono Net. “Pro Bono Net is honored to join forces with Equal Justice Works and other national partners on this cross-sector collaboration to raise awareness of one of the most critical justice issues of our time, and pathways to get involved.” 

“National VOAD enthusiastically joins forces with National VOAD Member Equal Justice Works to once again commemorate Disaster Resilience Awareness Month. This collaboration celebrates the fundamental principles of the VOAD Movement’s 4 C’s: cooperation, communication, coordination, and collaboration. Through educational initiatives, outreach programs, and advocacy efforts, we strive to foster resilience at every level, ensuring that individuals and communities are equipped to navigate challenges and emerge stronger in the face of adversity,” said Amelia Mendizabal, Director of Programs at National VOAD. “Together, we believe in the power of collective action to build more resilient communities and promote a safer, more prepared future for all.” 

“As major disaster events become more frequent and severe – and disproportionately impact the most vulnerable Americans – a focus on resilience is the only sustainable path forward in this fight for justice,” said Amanda Brown, Director of the ABA Young Lawyers Division’s Disaster Legal Services Program. “Collaborative campaigns like Disaster Resilience Awareness Month are the key to raising awareness of disaster resilience, helping us collectively increase our impact.” 

Last year, as a part of Disaster Resilience Awareness Month, Equal Justice Works partnered with the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness, the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division Disaster Legal Services, and Stetson University College of Law to host a Disaster Resilience Symposium. The two-day event convened over 100 legal, academic, and community voices instrumental in disaster law to share their experiences, expertise, and delivery strategies for advocating on behalf of people affected by disasters, which continue to grow in frequency and severity. Recordings of the panels from the symposium are available here. The next symposium will take place in 2025.  

Since 2005, Equal Justice Works has mobilized hundreds of passionate public service lawyers to deliver legal services to disaster-affected communities. To learn more about the organization’s efforts to mobilize public service leaders who are helping individuals and communities navigate all kinds of disasters including COVID-19, hurricanes, flooding, tornados, extreme heat, wildfires, and winter storms, visit here.

If your organization is interested in joining Equal Justice Works for Disaster Resilience Awareness Month, please reach out to [email protected].

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 About Equal Justice Works 

Equal Justice Works is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that creates opportunities for lawyers to transform their passion for equal justice into a lifelong commitment to public service. As the nation’s largest facilitator of opportunities in public interest law, Equal Justice Works brings together an extensive network of law students, lawyers, nonprofit legal aid organizations, and supporters to promote a lifelong commitment to public service and equal justice. 

About the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division Disaster Legal Services Program 

The American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division Disaster Legal Services Program (DLS) collaborates with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate the delivery of free legal services to low-income survivors of major disaster events. DLS works to ensure survivors who do not have the means to secure adequate legal services have access to confidential, free legal.  

About the American Red Cross 

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides comfort to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; distributes international humanitarian aid; and supports veterans, military members and their families. The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or CruzRojaAmericana.org, or follow us on social media. 

 About the Center for Disaster Philanthropy 

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy mobilizes philanthropy to strengthen communities’ ability to withstand disasters and recover equitably when they occur. It provides expert advice and resources while managing domestic and international disaster funds on behalf of corporations, foundations and individuals through targeted, holistic and localized grantmaking. Find out more at disasterphilanthropy.org and on LinkedIn. 

 About Legal Services Corporation 

Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is an independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974. For 50 years, LSC has provided financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. The Corporation currently provides funding to 131 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. 

 About National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster 

National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) was founded over 50 years ago in response to the challenges many disaster organizations experienced following Hurricane Camille, a category 5 storm that hit the Gulf Coast in August 1969. National VOAD promotes cooperation, communication, coordination and collaboration, and fosters more effective delivery of services to communities affected by disaster. 

 About Pro Bono Net 

Pro Bono Net’s mission is to create scalable and sustainable technology solutions and partnerships that bring free, safe and high-quality legal help to millions of people. Its programs (i) enable individuals to directly access the power of the law; (ii) empower advocates and volunteers to more effectively reach and represent those in need; and (iii) equip legal, social justice and community organizations with tools and resources to grow their impact. Through Advocates for Disaster Justice (https://www.advocatesfordisasterjustice.org), Pro Bono Net and its partners harness the power of shared experience and offer free resources to survivors and legal advocates working to advance equity, rights and resilience in communities impacted by climate-driven and other disasters. 

About the World Institute on Disability 

The World Institute on Disability (WID) is a registered 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization that is dedicated to designing, building, and supporting whole community solutions by removing barriers to include people with disabilities. Our mission on a global scale is to continuously advance the rights and opportunities of more than 1.3 billion people with disabilities. To help create a more inclusive global society, we share our expertise and focus our efforts on three strategic areas that profoundly impact people with disabilities: Accessibility and Universal Design; Emergency, Disaster, and Climate Resilience; and Community Inclusion. Together we are disrupting exclusion, transforming inclusion, and centering the leadership of multiply-marginalized disabled people and the principles of disability justice. For more information about WID, please visit www.wid.org.  

Learn more about becoming an Equal Justice Works Fellow