Following the devastating floods that hit regions of North Carolina, World Renew Disaster Response Services works with families to rebuild their homes and communities.

Renee (45) is a lifelong resident of Princeville, North Carolina, where she lives with her daughter, Nakia (20). With parents, siblings, and friends living nearby, she holds strongly that this place is her home, no matter what. This sentiment is shared by many of Renee’s neighbors, who also feel great pride in the history of the town itself. Princeville is the oldest town in the United States incorporated by freed African American slaves, and with that comes tremendous honor and historical significance. 

At their peak, the flood waters touched the branches of this tree.

In the fall of 2016, neighboring towns Princeville and Tarboro were devastated by millions of gallons of water flooding the streets, caused by Hurricane Matthew — but this is nothing the area has not experienced before. Less than two decades prior, in 1999, Hurricane Floyd hit North Carolina, causing massive amounts of destruction in towns like theirs. The trip from Princeville to Tarboro is just across the Tar River, which is prone to flooding. Princeville, seated at a lower elevation, tends to bear the worst of these floods. Hurricane Matthew was no exception.

“[The water] was all the way up to the tree. All the way up to the branches on that tree,” Renee recalled, pointing to a large tree in her front yard. The water was not only rising, it was rising quickly. “I was trying to see if anything [outside] knocked down, but when I opened the door you could see the tidal waves coming in,” Renee described. 

Renee’s daughter, Nakia, who was 17 at the time, was filled with fear at that moment. “‘Water’s coming in…. We’re going to drown!” Renee remembers her crying. “No, we’re not,” her mother assured her. “Let’s go on in and let’s say a prayer.” 

Today, four years later, Renee and Nakia are living in a home with new floors, walls, and roofing. With the help of World Renew Disaster Response Services volunteers, Renee and her daughter are able to make their house a home again. “We know we need each other,” Renee says of Nakia, “We go through the struggles and hardships and everything. She’s my angel.”