Monday, September 04, 2006

Your Help Is Still Needed... Katrina -- 1 Year Later

This note was written by my wonderful friend, Paula, who once again has volunteered to help people overwhelmed by Hurricane Katrina. Please read her note.

I am about to finish up my third stint in New Orleans as a hurricane relief volunteer. It continues to be the best worst thing I have ever done.

Worst when I'm tearing out drywall and insulation in a house we're gutting, and sweating so much that the mask over my nose and mouth is filling up with water so frequently that I feel like I'm going to drown...

Best when, as that's happening, one of the most adorable 5-year-old boys I've ever seen comes up to me, his child's Home Depot tool kit hammer in his hand, and says: Excuse me, ma'am, can I help you? I have a tool.

Worst when I pull at an overturned, ruined recliner to get it out of another house and two rats run out - and I scream like a girl and scare the rest of the crew to death...

Best because, even though it's rats - it's life returning to the area, something I had not seen during my first two trips down here.

Worst when we find an 80-year-old man sobbing on his front lawn when he got the first look at what was left of his house after the storm...

Best when, at the end of the day, he cries again, but this time tears of gratitude and joy as he insists on hugging every one of us, even though we are covered in dirt and mud and muck and sweat, and says we have given him hope...

I could go on with countless more examples - probably the worst of the worst being this past Friday, when someone decided to try to push a refrigerator that had been sitting in a house without power for 368 days without duct taping it closed first, and... you guest it... it opened. I'll leave the rest to your imagination.

The purpose of my email to you is twofold - first, to let you know - and ask you to spread the word - that it is not okay down here. In so many areas, it looks like the storm hit last week and not last year. So many people assume that because it's no longer the lead story on the news that everything is fixed. Nothing could be further from the truth.

And now, the parishes (counties to the rest of us) are starting to pass ordinances that homeowners must gut their houses, replace the doors and windows and mow and maintain their lawns. If they don't, the parishes will do it, put a lien on their properties for the cost of it, and take the house if they don't repay it. So many people, because they're still waiting for insurance settlements, or were uninsured, don't have the money to do this. They are exempt if they are on the list with a bonafide relief organization, so those list grow daily.

I have been working with Hilltop Rescue & Relief. They currently have over 900 houses still on their lists. What they don't have is enough volunteers, thus the second reason for my email.

Hilltop is a Church of Christ based relief organization - not my church - not even my denomination, but this is not about religion, it is about helping people. Check them out at hilltoprescue.org

They have been going non-stop since shortly after the storm but now, due to a lack of volunteers are scaling back. After this week, they are planning to work the week around Columbus Day weekend, a week to 10 days around Thanksgiving, and about 3 week over Christmas. I'm planning to come back between Christmas and New Year's. All you have to do is get yourselves here. They provide housing, meals, laundry facilities, electricity, indoor plumbing, hot showers - almost all the comforts of home.

I urge you all to consider making the trip down here. Come for a weekend, come for a week. If not with Hilltop, with another relief organization. Hilltop will even refer you to another organization.

If you are involved in any social, civic, fraternal, religious, professional or other organization, suggest this as a project. Talk about making airplane tickets to New Orleans the family Christmas presents this year - I guarantee you it will be remembered more than almost any other Christmas gift you have received or will ever receive.

It doesn't matter how much you've read or seen on TV. The scope of what happened down here is impossible to comprehend unless you see it with your own eyes. Every homeowner - Hilltop gives priority to those over 65 and/or handicapped - has told me how blessed they feel, but I'm telling you, I'm the one who has been blessed. I guarantee you that a trip down here will change your life forever. I have worked side-by-side with people from 8 to 80, from all walks of life, and from all over the country. This trip, I have worked with a wonderful and incredibly hard working family from Canada - although it is a little embarrassing that Canadians are showing up to help when our own citizens are not. I'm hoping that'[s because they don't know, so please help me spread the word.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like additional information. I would love to see you in the Big Easy... for the hardest work you'll ever love.

Paula

8 Comments:

At 7:02 PM, Blogger RoadKnight said...

I truely feel for those people. But, after having been down there and through all the Katrina ravaged areas, I have to say that it's mostly their own fault that things aren't fixed.

Mississippi was hit much, much harder than Louisiana. Even harder than New Orleans itself. While NO was torn apart, towns in Mississippi were, literally, wiped off the map. (NOTE: I'm not joking here. I've been through the areas where these town used to be.) Yet, oddly enough, the people of Mississippi are having a much easier time (though still difficult) of putting things back together.

IMHO, it's because the people of Louisiana have grown far too used to having the government do everything for them. LA is one of the biggest welfare states in the nation. And now that the people are actually in need, they don't know what to do. They have allowed their own resources and ingenuity to atrophy.

Do they need help? Yes. But what they need even more is to rediscover their sense of self-worth, self-reliance, and self-determination.

Anyway, I apologize for the long comment, Esther. But since I worked hurricane relief down there and handed out supplies, I believe I have a firmer grasp on the situation than most people.

If you would like to see some pictures I took while down there, please go to http://tinyurl.com/gc4p2. (It links directly to the post with Katrina pics).

 
At 7:25 PM, Blogger Esther said...

RK, I meant to say HEY!!! on the other post you commented on -- so great to see you again! I definitely want to see your posts/pictures -- thanks so much for the links!

I see your points....but I do want to help where I can...if I can get some time off, I'm going to try to do it.

 
At 7:40 PM, Blogger RoadKnight said...

No worries about the late "WB". I ain't that vain. ;-)

As for the links, they don't go to the main site because I don't want to be a "blogwhore". Not my style.

I can understand wanting to help. That's why I chose to haul relief supplies (paid) down there and volunteered to hand them out (unpaid).

While it's your choice, might I suggest going to Mississippi or Alabama instead? Those folks could use your help too and, IMHO, are more deserving of it. Just my $0.02. :-)

 
At 6:40 AM, Anonymous seawitch said...

I want to commend Paula for going to Louisiana to help. Right now they need all the help they can get. As roadknight pointed out, Mississippi is in rebuilding mode. The volunteers needed in Mississippi are carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc.

I want to point out that the people of New Orleans are committed to rebuilding but they aren't getting much help from their local government. There are still too many places in New Orleans that are without electricity and water and sewer. there doesn't seem to be any plans formulated by the city of New Orleans and the people are leading the efforts to rebuild, not city hall and not the state government.

Of course if you do want to help in Mississippi, come on down. A lot of volunteers that had wanted to go to Louisiana are coming to Mississippi instead. There doesn't seem to be much effort at co-ordinating volunteers in New Orleans and other parts in Louisiana that were devastated by Katrina and Rita.

I can say that because a group that wanted to help in Lake Charles was told there was no place to house them. They came to Mississippi instead. My sister benefitted from that because they helped her repaint and placed new flooring in her home. She had a lot of roof and wind damage.

Also, the largest volunteer group in Mississippi says that there are many, many problems with red tape and lack of co-ordination in New Orleans.

But please, if you can, help out those in New Orleans and elswhere in Louisiana.

 
At 2:04 PM, Blogger RoadKnight said...

Seawitch, that's exactly the point I was talking about (though didn't spell out explicitly). The government of LA, and specifically NO, are completely incompetent. More money has been sent to LA than to any other state affected by Katrina. But all the government, local and state, can do is blame the feds. And the locals just reelected the most corrupt and incompetent mayor the city has ever had.

Look, if you don't believe me, just look at the photos I posteda link to. In the background of some of them, you will see buses. What you don't see if myself and 9 other truck drivers moving over 50 buses to an abandoned grocery store parking lot so that we had a secure area to dole out supplies.

What you also don't see is myself and other truckers getting shot at (though only one trailer was found with a bullet hole) while trying to get supplies into NO.

Yes, New Orleans needs help. But they have to prove that they can help themselves. And reelecting the mayor of the "Chocolate City" was not a very bright thing to do. IMHO, Nagin needs to be held accountable for hundreds, if not thousands, of deaths.

Esther, I apologize for turning this post into a rant. I should have kept my mouth shut. But I risked my life down there and am still watching them (the locals) piss away every chance they've had. Feel free to delete my comments if they don't suit the tone of your blog. Again, I apologize.

/rant

 
At 2:21 PM, Blogger Esther said...

Are you kidding? The info you are sharing is aces, as is Seawitch. Thank you so much! I'm so sorry you were shot out! Good lord. Rant on my site anytime.

 
At 2:48 PM, Blogger RoadKnight said...

Shot 'at', dear, 'at'. LOL. Like I said though, only one trailer showed up with holes in it. It was 3 or 4 trucks behind mine. All I know is when we heard shots, we dropped the hammer and took off like 18-wheeled bats from hell. We didn't know about the bullet hole until a National Guardsman told us about it (after we got to the secure area).

I honestly don't know why the NO issue angers me so much. I worked through 5 hurricanes the year before and, while emotional, was never angery over them. The only reason I can think of is the brutal incompetence that cost many, many lives.

New Orleans was a beautiful city. I've picked up and delivered there many times. I once did a reset there during Marti Gras (now THAT was a blast). And now, the NO that I loved is gone and will never be the same.

 
At 10:36 PM, Blogger MissingLink said...

All I can do is to wish those good people the fastest possible recovery.

 

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