How high is the water Papa?

We are coming up on the two year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Much has been written about the government’s response. Reports are now coming out declaring billions of dollars of over payment.

The people living in the affected areas are still trying to get back on their feet. Many of them are the “working poor”. They get up everyday, probably earlier than you  or I and get ready for work. In many neighborhoods, shower facilities are shared because every home does not have working plumbing. They go to work and try to make from day to day. They sleep on mattresses with no linen. The eat off of paper plates. They have to share towels. They live a life that we would not recognize in many other areas of the country.

There is no more aid coming from most agencies.

There is hope. There are organizations like families to families which give each of us an opportunity to “adopt” one family at a time and send them the essentials. People are in need of sheets, pots, pans, flat ware,plates,towels, etc. You ask for a family to adopt, you receive information on what they need and you send it directly to them. You are provided with a phone number so that you can actually connect with the people that you are helping. It probably costs less than $150 to buy and ship what they need.

I know that I would have strong reservations about giving my money directly to just about any “charity” organization. The actual dollar value that reaches the person in need is quite small thru the United Way or the Red Cross.

Those organizations serve a very worthwhile purpose and do get aid where it is needed quickly. It does costs money to have people on the ground after a major catastrophy. The Katrina effort is beyond the initial response stage.

Those that suffered surely appreciate the thousands of dollars that you have donated to assist them.

In my opinion the response from FEMA and the rest of the Federal response was not what we would expect. I know that I never thought I would see thousands of Americans on American soil begging for water and something to eat. I know that I never thought I would witness the death and squalor that occured in those three or four days that followed the levee breaking.

The mayor of the city certainly has sounded over the top in the “sound bites” that have been shared with the rest of the country. I can not pass judgement on him. I also can not allow his image to impede efforts to reach the suffering in New Orleans and throughout the southeastern coastline.

Please remember that there was significant damage caused by the storm that had nothing to do with levee’s breaking. Slidell, Biluxi, Violet….the list of devestated communities goes on and on….and on.

There is a generalization that the “911/NY was a huge “we” will rebuild versus Katrina “we expect you” to rebuild us.” That feeling is not founded on one iota of fact and is probably rooted in closet racism more than anything else.

Long before we suffered an attack in New York City (take your pick of the first or second terrorist attack on the World Trade Center)…….the city of New York went federal with an attitude we expect you to bail us out of our debt. Our congress did overlook poor management on the part of the mayor and local government and did bail them out. That was a case of the local officials abusing their power and needing federal assistance to stave off bankruptcy.

It was done because the overall impact of the crisis was going to be felt by all the people, not just the elected officials.

The response in 911/NY is a bit convoluted. I donated and have no idea what was done with my money. I had a knee jerk reaction to the attack and sending money in during a telethon seemed like a good idea. Of course, I don’t know what was done with the money. I am not even sure if there was anything I could do. We as a nation were attacked and we as a nation responded.

Katrina was not directed by a foreign power. I do not believe anyone that had the opportunity to watch television as the storm approached will ever forget how large the storm was as it approached the coast line. The image if forever imbedded in my mind.

I do not think most people remember that New Orleans was spared and the storm damage in the city was not as bad as hundreds of other towns along the coast and along the Mississippi.

The damage to New Orleans was from the levee’s that failed and the water from the lake that filled the city. If the French Quarter were not the high point, it would have been lost. The flood caused by the levee’s failure wiped out the 9th ward. The flood left areas uninhabitable. It remains that way today. The city of New Orleans has problems that will take many years to resolve.

The people that are overlooked do not live in New Orleans. They live in the little cities that were flooded by the storm. They lived along the banks of the Mississippi and the gulf coast. They are what we gently refer to as the working poor. They did not have means to do anything but go to their local school or church or shelter and wait out the storm. They did not evacuate. They waited and prayed and when the storm passed they returned to what was left and began to rebuild.

There are no FEMA trailors in most of these towns. Homes that were flooded have been dried out. There is more mold in that area than anything, but it is all they have.

Habitat for Humanity is building small homes for those that have either lost their home or live in a home that has been deemed uninhabitable and condemned.

Neighbors share what they can. They still live in conditions we would consider third world. These folks do not sit around and wait and expect anyone to rebuild them. Two or three days after the storm, they returned to work and have been working since the storm. They have made the best of the situation. The children go to school and life goes on.

Of course, they live on the line between earning just enough to live and not enough to live. They can not replace all the towels, so the family shares on bath towel. They may still eat off paper plates, because they can not save enough to buy dishes. Many of them still use plastic knives and forks because flatware does not fit in the budget.

When it comes to cooking, they may have one pot or pan. Neighbors share. At night, they sleep on sour mattresses and there are not sheets and in some cases, no pillows.

The very things we consider everyday have become elusive. This is on your soil, in your country. They are above the poverty line and below the comfortable line.

This is the way it is almost two years after the storm. The small countries that were devastated by the Tsunami’s , with our aid,have recovered. The banks of the Mississippi and the coastline of the gulf of Mexico remain littered with broken hearts and dashed dreams.

I know where my money is spent. I have been back to the area several times. I have cleaned muck and mud out of homes. I have worked in soup lines. I have taken the time to see who is effective and who is not.

Families to Families sends you the name and phone number and address of someone requesting help. There is a short letter asking for things like wash cloths, or towels or sheets. Nothing major is asked for, it is just everyday items. You can send them gently used or new items. You call them and let them know you received the request and let them tell you what they need.

One lady told me that she really didn’t need much. She was 72 and there were younger families that needed more. She just wanted a pan to cook a chicken in. She hadn’t made one since the hurricane. I suppose she could have gone on without the pot, but further conversation revealed she slept on a mattress with no sheets and had little in the way of dinnerware. That is they type request you receive.

One lady did ask for new appliances. That is outside the perameters of the organization. I am working with others to see if we can help her.

Anyway, you decide what you can comfortably do and you send it directly to them. You can organize a local chapter with four or five families and accomplish even more.

Your assistance goes directly to those in need. In a world that has been reduced to golf ball in size by the speed of communication, the southeast coast is local to anyone living in the states.

Leave the battle over policy and procedure and budgets to the politicians. It is so very easy to reach out and make a difference. You will never make the sound bite, you will probably never be noticed outside the family you help, but you will make a difference and that difference will live beyond you and it will change the world, one family at a time.

You can make a difference.

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