Friday, October 28, 2005

Trip to Louisiana an eye opener

"In the wake of the hurricanes that shook the Gulf Coast to its physical and moral core, many thoughts crossed my mind. The overarching theme of these thoughts was to do whatever I could to help. Yet I found myself doing nothing.

"Musing with Jonathan Ference '07 one night, I commented that it felt selfish to want to do something yet care too much about my grades here at Swarthmore to drop everything to help these people in their most dire hour. So we made a moral compromise and planned a trip to Louisiana for fall break to volunteer.

"Jon and I drove from Swarthmore to Baton Rouge, La., on the first Sunday of break and ended up at the main Federal Emergency Management Agency refugee camp. Despite the recent condemnation of FEMA, this place was absolutely astounding.

"An entire RV park with full hookups—electricity, water, and sewage. The camp contained about 700 RVs, each holding between four and seven people. Residents got three free meals a day and paid no rent. This program will last for 18 months."

"We spent Monday and Tuesday helping people move into their new 'homes' and handing out supplies, such as toiletries and linens, that non-profit organizations had collected.

"The most amazing part to me was that some people actually had more at the FEMA camp than they had had in their old homes in New Orleans. So many people were just happy to have a place to call home. A society that gave them nothing before the hurricanes was suddenly giving them everything they needed.

"The FEMA camp had exhausted its need for volunteers by the end of Tuesday, but we were lucky enough to meet up with a group from Bryan College in Tennessee." ...

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