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Travel as a Disaster Relief Volunteer with Samaritan’s Purse

Tonya Prater, Owner

My family has traveled a fair amount. Sure there are those that have traveled more then we have, just as there are those that have traveled less. And while we’ve traveled for many reasons, it’s never been about keeping up with the Joneses.

My family has traveled for necessity; to ensure that my husband was able to continue to provide for our family.

We’ve traveled out of curiosity; to experience something new or different.

And we’ve traveled purely for the experience.

This past year, my teen sons’ were able to travel for a different reason; to give selflessly of themselves and serve on a disaster relief team to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Travel as a Disaster Relief Worker with Samaritan's Purse

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t just a tiny bit apprehensive on the morning they were to leave, when I dropped them off at church, and watched them board a bus that would transport them to the New Jersey shore ten hours away. And maybe the tears  that momentarily blurred my vision weren’t so much because I wasn’t ready to watch them go, but because I was watching them grow into the men I had prayed they would become right before my very eyes.

They were so excited to go out into the world and make a difference. And they were prepared for this. They had been helping my husband make repairs on our home and on the job since they could pick-up trash and carry a hammer. I knew they’d be okay. Not only did I trust them to behave like young men, I trusted the adults they were traveling with and I trusted the organization they were serving with.

The church had arranged to serve as disaster relief volunteers with a unit from Samaritan’s Purse in Tom’s River, New Jersey. I had always heard positive feedback about the ministry, but after listening to the experience my boy’s had, I have a deeper appreciation for the organization.

What is Samaritan’s Purse?

Samaritan’s Purse, is a Christian organization lead by Franklin Graham,  that provides spiritual and physical aid to those in need worldwide through a variety of ministries. When it comes to disaster relief, they are able provide food, water, temporary housing and meet critical needs with the assistance of disaster relief volunteers and employees.

A Few Tidbits about Samaritan’s Purse

1. Volunteers must be 14 years old or older.
Parent’s must accompany 14 and 15 year olds. 16 and 17 year olds must have someone over 21 with them. Volunteers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using power tools.

2. The work is supervised.

3. Samaritan’s Purse accepts both skilled and unskilled volunteers.
If you are willing and able to do manual labor, you are able to volunteer with Samaritan’s Purse.

4. You will go through a brief orientation and training session before you are placed on a team to work.

5. Transportation to and from the work site must be arranged by the volunteer, but other possible expenses like meals and lodging are provided.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel as a disaster relief volunteer with Samaritan’s Purse?

Thanks to my two teenagers, I can offer you a little bit of insight.

Hurricane Sandy disaster relief workers

For one week, my boy’s called this church home, along with dozens of other disaster relief workers. They met the neatest people, including three brothers that were taking several months traveling to different disaster sites, offering their services.

volunteer sleeping quarters

The slept in makeshift dorms with the men in the group, while the women slept in another area of the church.

showers from Samaritan's Purse

They showered in these portable showers that were provided by Samaritan’s Purse- and yes, they did have warm water.

They also said the food was good and though they are hungry, growing boys, they had plenty to eat and even chided me that they ate better in New Jersey then they do at home. It’s a good thing I’m not easily offended!

Hurrican damage in Toms River NJ

They saw property that had heavy hurricane damage and could only imagine what  it had looked like before any clean up efforts.

Many homes were heavily damaged with decks ripped off, siding missing, windows blown out and extensive interior and exterior water damage due to the flooding.

They spent much of the week tearing out flooring and laying new subfloor.

Samaritan's Purse Volunteer

They told me stories about how hard they had worked.

Even when the job required that they climb into a crawl space still filled with stagnant water that smelled like sewage to fish out bags full of water soaked insulation, they worked without complaining.

Hurricane Sandy disaster relief

But don’t misunderstand and think that it was all work and no play. They still had time throughout the day to crack a joke or two.

Samaritan's Purse tool truck

And when I asked my boys what was most memorable about the experience, they told me they enjoyed meeting the homeowners that they were assisting.

They worked in several properties during the week, and as they finished the work they had been assigned to do, Samaritan’s Purse volunteers presented the homeowners a bible that each of the disaster relief workers had signed with a note that included their favorite scripture before praying for the homeowner.

According to Samaritan’s Purse, their main objective is to be the hands and feet of Jesus by cleaning up and rebuilding homes struck by disasters, while ministering to the people of those communities. My boys really felt like they had contributed to that goal.

The experience was so positive for my teens, that my husband and I hope to travel as disaster relief volunteers with Samaritan’s Purse sometime in the future. Only next time around, we’ll go as a family.

If you would like to volunteer for a disaster relief team, fill out the form at this website, so a coordinator can contact you.

Have you ever traveled to volunteer? Would you ever consider volunteering as a family? 

This post is linked to Inspire Me Wednesday with Mama Buzz, Thursday’s Favorite Things with Katherine’s Corner and Friday Daydreaming with R We There Yet, Mom?

Cher Denham

Wednesday 8th of March 2023

I would like to join Samaritan's Purse.

Tonya Prater

Tuesday 14th of March 2023

Hi Cher, You'll have to go to the link in the article for more information. You'll find more information about current disaster volunteer opportunities at this link: Just click it and you can find more information. I hope this is helpful!


Saturday 1st of October 2022

We are looking to help in Florida following Ian and SP has several opportunities. Thanks for posting this as it's still relevant almost 10 years later!

Tonya Prater

Monday 21st of November 2022

HI Allison! I'm so glad you found this helpful even after all this time. Bless you for your acts of service.

Debi Reid

Thursday 3rd of March 2022

I’m trying to find volunteer opportunities To help with Ukraine. I can help state side or overseas

Tonya Prater

Saturday 2nd of April 2022

Hi Debi, You can check with Samaritan's Purse and learn about their Ukraine Response here:

Lorin motta

Wednesday 1st of September 2021

I have a CDL class a license, and can operate excavators and skid steers. Was a police officer for 30 years and built about 75 houses. My skills could be used.

Tonya Prater

Monday 20th of September 2021

Hi Lorin, If you visit this website: and look at the tabs on the top, you'll see one that says "GET INVOLVED". That will provide more information as to how to get started with Samaritan's Purse. I don't work with the ministry, I'm simply sharing my family's experience. My oldest son has volunteered with them several times and it has always been a rewarding experience. I hope this information helps!


Thursday 7th of March 2013

What a wonderful experience! I didn't realize Samaritan's Purse did this type of work. Fantastic! Protection Status
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