from James McCullum on facebook
I arrived in New Orleans on Sunday afternoon and tried to secure a car. Most of the cars (all the big places) were reserved for FEMA and Red Cross workers, so I was unsuccessful until stumbling upon a small father-song operation in the city itself. Though they were closed on Sunday, they both came in to help me get a car. They went above and beyond, even offering to allow me to drop the car off at 6:30am Wednesday (they open at 9am) and then drive me to the airport so I can make my 9am flight and not spend money on an Uber. Wonderful humans! (http://www.apriority1.com/)
After that I grounded myself at a friend’s home and prepared myself for the couple days of work. Yesterday I drove over to an organization called St. Bernard Project (http://www.stbernardproject.org/) because I had heard that they were doing good disaster relief response. They were indeed. Very organized and efficient in their volunteer efforts, many of the supervisors were AmeriCorps volunteers. They are doing mostly gutting of homes, which they said would take approximately 2 months to complete. No estimate on how many homes were damaged. They take about 20 volunteers on the weekdays and 50 on weekends to the field sites. Unfortunately, they have not secured housing or transportation just yet, but they said they might soon. They have a lot of history with flood response so they know what they are doing.
After that I drove to Baton Rouge in hopes of assessing the situation. I was expecting there to still be flooding, but after driving around some neighborhoods I could not find any standing water (though perhaps some areas may still have water). Entire neighborhoods had massive piles of trash, insulation, sheetrock, clothes, couches, food, whatever got water damage, tossed on the lawns. It reminded me of huge snowbanks in Maine after winter storms..
eventually made it to the field site with SBP and helped with one home for the entire afternoon. The work is long and slow and the temperatures and humidity are high. The smell in some of the neighborhoods was awful. The work was gutting the homes, scoring and cutting out sheetrock and insulation, removing carpets, clearing everything out so that it can be replaced. Some homes had two feet of standing water while others had much more. Most people were not in flooding zones as described by FEMA and thus had no flood insurance. I also visited a FEMA camp and saw endless lines of people trying to secure loans to help rebuild what they lost–homes and business.
There is a lot of work that needs to be done here. If you have any interest in volunteering for some time down here or helping out in some other way, please contact me directly.
Update from Pashupati – President of AMURT USA – September 12, 2016
James McCullum (Jyotisvarupa) and Acarya Pashupati and have just returned from Baton Rouge, where hundreds of thousands of people have been rendered homeless by flooding. AMURT and AMURTEL have been supporting relief efforts there. Efforts involve counseling and comforting, and mostly sweaty hard work pulling sheet rock off of walls, carrying soggy clothing and mattresses out to the street, and removing heavy furniture and light personal materials and soaked books out to the street. Sound glorious? It is! Get to meet the people who support our society, interact with church people and young volunteers, and get inspired by the working together of organized selfless groups.
We especially would ask for volunteers together with our beloved Pastor Fredrick Sweetwyne, a wonderful and energetic spiritual man who leads the Jordan United Methodist Church, and who is totally devoted to spirituality and social service. Can you join him? Even if not, can you volunteer some time later on? We sleep in the church and shower at a parishioner’s house a couple of blocks away. You might even get to participate with groups of teenagers or elderly volunteers from church and secular other groups.
Volunteers please email to Tvarita Diane Alcantara for an application and waiver at firstname.lastname@example.org
Further information by Ac. Pashupati at 919-868-4729.
Finally, of course, we’d love your support to help us with plane fares, food, equipment and the like. Can you help with this also? You can contribute at www.amurt.net or www.amurtel.net, or by sending checks to AMURT c/o Bhaskar (Peter Dodge) at 62 Cliff Street, East Haven CT 06152.
We are continuing to send more volunteers.