NEW YORK — Each year, thousands of Americans are left with nothing after a fire ravages their homes, and many victims are bewildered when it comes to the process of putting their lives back together.
From 2011 to 2013, residential building fires made up 58 percent of the total dollar loss from all fires, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Philip Rao, a resident of Staten Island, New York, whose co-op was burned down in 2014, experienced such loss first-hand. Fortunately, however, he was able to recover many of his possessions through insurance.
Instead of simply chalking his experience up to good preparation, Rao, a committed Christian and New York City chaplain, saw an opportunity to serve the Lord by not only raising awareness about fire insurance, but also by helping New Yorkers who just lost everything through his innovative new ministry, SI Angels of Hope.
Angels of Hope responds to fires in the city by using the fire tracking service New York City Fire Wire, and Rao and his crew minister to the families by providing them with care packages that include toiletries, clothing, and information on who they need to call after the fire.
"The hope for me is to be able to allow people to know that even though you go through a crisis, God is always there for us. But there's a lot of people who don't know God," said Rao to The Christian Post. "So for me, to be able to be with them at that time of crisis [is the mission]."
According to Ready, a national public service advertising campaign to educate Americans about emergency preparedness, Americans experience about $7.3 billion in annual property loss due to fires. Rao explained that the process of rebuilding after a fire can take years, even for those who have insurance, and Angels of Hope will provide victims with the necessary information on how to best handle their situation.
They also aim to address the emotional needs of fire victims.
"For us, with our boy Zachery, he's 5-years-old, and I'm not exaggerating. He wants to go home every day," he said. "So for families that have children, it's a big experience for them to go through. And [kids] don't understand."
As a Christian ministry, Angels of Hope tries to live out the Gospel by loving its neighbors who have suffered through a fire, and aside from physical needs, the group offers prayer and encouragement to these families.