Finding Yourself Through
Service to Others
Why should you bring your group to New Orleans 10 years after Katrina?
Hope for the Future
New Orleans has recovered in many ways. Its token jazz festivals, Mardi Gras, and Saints victories have boosted morale and tourism. Yet every day, individuals and families whose lives have changed dramatically continue to struggle. They are without a safe place to sleep, good food to eat, and essential medicine. Yet as a community, we can work together to rebuild a stronger, better community. There are survivors. There are people whose resilience has sustained them through the darkest hours, days, weeks, months and years, and whose endless hearts have inspired them to pull together and help others.
It is at times like this when we can once again unite and let people know what New Orleans spirit is all about – and that as long as it takes, we will work until we heal.
Just the Beginning: The Long-term Effects of Disasters
None of us will ever forget Hurricane Katrina and the tragedy she sowed as infrastructures, communities, homes, as individuals and families were torn apart in 2005. Claiming around 1,836 lives and leaving millions of people homeless and without work, Katrina is by far the worst storm to ever strike the US.
10 years later, and we are still rebuilding – putting together roads, schools, libraries, parks, offices, and reinforcing our neighborhoods. If there is one thing that Katrina could not achieve, it was to break the resolve of the volunteers, organizers, campaigners and donors who have helped the city return to its memorable joie-de-vivre for which it is so renowned. Yet there is still a long way to go. As with all natural disasters, the aftershocks continue to make an impact long after the initial tragedy. Sadly, we forget about these impacts when a news story is no longer topical, but the reality is that people still need our help, our time, and our compassion.
While the recession has created a hugely negative impact in communities across the States and around the world, economic downfall has already affected people before 2008. A natural disaster can easily destroy an economy as devastatingly as any recession, and New Orleans’ financial infrastructure faced a huge crisis after Katrina occurred.
Billions of dollars are lost not only because businesses are destroyed, but investors become reluctant to pool their funds into a high-risk zone. People who are in a position to emigrate relocate to another town, state, or country, and this continues at a high rate years later. Low growth and rebuilding does not make for appealing prospects for new enterprises, and the potential threat of another disaster – New Orleans in particular continues to be in a vulnerable region – acts as a strong dissuader from would-be entrepreneurs and investors. Finances are not only required for rebuilding the economy, but for effectively protecting an area with a solid infrastructure. In 2013 – eight years later – New Orleans finally completed the construction of new levees equipped to reduce storm damage. While this is good news, eight years is a long time – and just like the delay in responding to the initial disaster, for many people, this investment hasn’t come soon enough.
Health & Wellbeing
One of the most severe consequences of a natural disaster is the effect it has on our health and wellbeing. Initial injuries caused by a disaster may not receive treatment within an essential amount of time for a number of reasons – emergency aid is unable to reach a patient and hospitals and medical centers which are inadequately equipped to deal with growing numbers of people are just a few. Diseases and infections spread. Patients who are homeless, jobless, and who have no health plan are often left without the right treatment they need. As a result, the number of people who suffer from anxiety, depression, PTSD and other disorders are left without the right resources to cope with their struggles and are left in the dark. Communities which are already vulnerable face even greater difficulties. And all communities are susceptible to an increase in substance abuse as people not only struggle with their worsening circumstances, but law enforcement faces several obstacles in effectively monitoring the situation. More than ever, people who need medication, treatment, and intervention continue to struggle on a day to day basis, even a decade later.
Read this article by Gemma Bains
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