Over the last 15 years, Kip Scott has set aside his law practice on three separate occasions, packed up and gone to work as a disaster relief volunteer. His latest sojourn was to an area around the city of Tacloban in the Philippines where thousands of people were left homeless and in desperate need after Typhoon Haiyan ravaged part of Southeast Asia last November.
“Some people ask ‘why don’t you just send the money’?” says Scott. “The answer is you don’t know how much those people appreciate seeing an American face there. It tells them ‘we have not forgotten about you’.”
Scott has trained as a volunteer disaster relief worker with the Salvation Army and had real-life on-the-job experience in New York during 9-11 and in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
“I actually had never been to New York before 9-11,” says Scott who heard the news and within days was on his way to the site of the Twin Towers attack in Manhattan. “I was attached to the New York Medical Examiner’s Office and my job was to be a driver and deliver supplies to different locations around ground zero.”
“It was very difficult,” says Scott. “They considered the area to be an open grave and people were very angry that their friends and family had been murdered basically. Hurricane Katrina and Typhoon Haiyan were natural disasters but there was still a lot of hurt and sorrow and loss.”
Kip Scott specializes in personal injury law. Although the situations are profoundly different, his clients are often being tossed about in a firestorm of devastating personal circumstances. “Many of the people I see in my practice in Irvine, California are going through the worst time in their lives. Many of them can’t work, they have huge medical bills, and they are in emotional pain or physical pain. We try to find them a way out and help them rebuild their lives.”
In the Philippines, three months after Typhoon Haiyan, search and rescue teams continue to look for bodies of the missing and dead. Typhoon Haiyan (which translates to Typhoon Yolanda) killed more 6,000 people and hundreds of thousands are still without running water and electricity. It was the strongest typhoon ever recorded with sustained one-minute wind speeds of 195 mph.
On the ground for several weeks last November, Kip Scott and others from his church group at home in California hooked up with the Philippine Red Cross, Unicef, local community groups, and hundreds of other relief workers from around the world.
“We just said, ‘what do you need’?” says Scott.
The community they arrived in had water—but shelter was in short supply. Scott and his group got a hold of hundreds of sheets of roofing material, provided a truck, a driver and two haulers and began distributing the building materials to 73 families in a small out of the way place called Barangay San Jose.
“It was very inspirational to see people from countries around the world coming together to help,” says Scott. “In other ways it was difficult to hear the stories of the survivors and the stories about those who didn’t survive.”
Scott’s group helped hundreds of people recover from a devastating storm by providing food, clothing and shelter.
“These people have gone through a tremendous ordeal and you want to be respectful. In our disaster recovery training we were taught to never say ‘I understand what you are going through’, because you really don’t,” says Scott.
All in all, Scott and his team were able to serve 870 individuals including providing new roofing for 73 families. Reflecting on his experience Scott says, “There are just overwhelming needs. We worked every day we were there from 8 a.m., getting back to our place about 8-9 pm. We all wish we could give more and do more but our time was up.”
Kip Scott is a senior partner with the Personal Injury Law Center in Irvine, California. The firm serves southern California from Santa Barbara down to San Diego. The firm has recovered millions of dollars for persons injured through no fault of their own. Scott has been recognized for his volunteer work with homeless children, Hurricane Katrina, and the Ground Zero Recovery Team.