In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, the Category 5 storm that last month wrought havoc across the Western Atlantic, a number of disaster relief organizations mobilized to assist those affected. Along with the American Red Cross and others, one battle-tested veterans group has also entered the fray, CNBC reported.
Last week, members of Team Rubicon, an international nonprofit dedicated to helping in times of crisis, deployed rapid response personnel to Haiti to assist with on-the-ground rebuilding efforts. Those familiar with the growing organization know this isn't its first encounter with disaster or the impoverished nation of Haiti. In fact, the country was the impetus for the establishment of Team Rubicon.
In January 2010, Marine veteran and Team Rubicon CEO Jake Woods watched as a massive 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked Haiti. Woods sprung into action almost immediately, penning a Facebook post expressing his intention to travel to the island to help, CNN reported. He bookended his message with challenge to fellow service members: "Who's in?"
His friend William McNulty, also a Marine veteran, answered the call, along with more than 60 other volunteers. Within weeks of the disaster, Wood, McNulty and a team of discharged military personnel were in Haiti constructing hospital tents and transporting injured residents to nearby hospitals.
"We realized we were more effective than many organizations that were down there with us," Wood told the news organization. "We also realized that most organizations weren't engaging vets on their own. So we said, 'Let's try to improve this.'"
After returning from Haiti, Wood, an aspiring business student, went to work legitimizing the organization, sourcing more volunteers and looking for new missions. Team Rubicon personnel soon found work in Burma, Chile, Pakistan and South Sudan, The New York Times reported. The nonprofit also lent a hand after tornadoes devastated Joplin, Missouri in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy invaded New Jersey and New York a year later.
Now, Team Rubicon boasts over 40,000 volunteers and operates an international division based in the U.K. Approximately 80 percent of its members are veterans, most of whom benefit personally from the work. The organization has proved vital for former military personnel searching for a renewed sense of purpose in life after service.
"We're giving them a reason to come together … and that community lasts long after the mission," Wood explained in an interview with CNN. "Right now, Team Rubicon is focused on how we can … get them involved in as many ways as possible."
In the coming years, Team Rubicon will work to add new members to its ranks and offer more domestic disaster relief services. The organization is looking to raise $10 million by the end of 2016, most of which will go toward meeting these goals.
Wood expects Team Rubicon volunteers to pour into Haiti over the next week and assist anywhere they are needed.