Hurricane Katrina displaced almost all of the New Orleans population when it slammed the Gulf Coast five years ago. Studies show that only about half of the population had returned a year later, increasing to two-thirds by fall of 2007.
While living in southeast Texas, I was surprised by how many people I met during the year following Hurricane Katrina who were hurricane evacuees still waiting to return home. They said they either had no where left to go or the conditions just weren’t liveable. Some said they decided to not go back at all. These conversations made me realize that restoring New Orleans was more than just cleaning up debris and reconstructing buildings. The heart and soul of the ‘Big Easy’ was its residents, but its residents were finding it very difficult to be able to return and thrive back home.
The Salvation Army of New Orleans recognized this problem and launched EnviRenew, a strategy to renew communities through continued Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts. Envirenew began in 2006 and continues to find innovative ways to strengthen New Orleans.
Pictured is an affordable, energy efficient home built through EnviRenew. These units are helping revive New Orleans communities, and they’re also designed to withstand strong weather.
The initiative really is amazing. They’ve awarded $10 million in grants to help rebuild 5 New Orleans neighborhoods. They’re constructing affordable, green homes for those in need, improving quality of life and breaking down the high cost barriers that prevent most of these people from being able to return and rebuild. They’re also attracting teachers and first responders to the neighborhoods to make them even stronger. The whole approach is making a positive difference and has even gained expert support.
The interior of an EnviRenew home.
Even 5 years after Hurricane Katrina, The Salvation Army remains committed to help New Orleans progress from a “recovering” city to a “resilient” city. This week you can even have an opportunity to be a part of this!
This Thursday, August 26, The Salvation Army will host a co-sponsored event with FedEx called “The Resiliency Summit.” New Orleans leaders along with national and local experts will celebrate the progress made over the past 5 years and discuss what it will take to create a vibrant and sustainable future for New Orleans communities. This event is free and open to the public, but you have to sign up beforehand! Register here.
Stay tuned to our blog, Facebook, and Twitter pages for updates on this exciting event. For more information on Envirenew, visit their website at www.envirenew.org.
August 29 marks the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
Be sure to tune in to CNN this Saturday and Sunday night (August 21 and 22) at 8pm ET for ‘New Orleans Rising,’ a Soledad O’Brien documentary which chronicles the rebuilding efforts of the New Orleans neighborhood Pontchartrain Park.
The special will include a look at how The Salvation Army’s assistance helped this community recover.
You won’t want to miss it!
In addition, we’ll also be releasing videos and information every day next week regarding The Salvation Army’s efforts and New Orleans’ progress, so check back regularly at our blog, Facebook, and Twitter pages!
Yesterday we posted an updated bulletin regarding The Salvation Army’s ongoing relief work in Pakistan in response to the area’s devastating floods.
Today we are sharing the firsthand account of Major Dennis Gensler of The Salvation Army Pakistan Territory regarding his efforts in the recovering communities. Some of his narrative expands on the events described in yesterday’s bulletin, and much of the narrative provides additional detail exclusive to Major Gensler’s own experience. We hope it will provide you with a more personal view of The Salvation Army’s relief efforts and the plight of flood survivors.
“We left Territorial Headquarters Saturday 14 August at 4:30 am for the four hour trip to Islamabad to pick up other members of the Disaster team before going the remaining two hours to Charsadda. We were in two vehicles as the plan was to leave the four-wheel drive truck with the Islamabad team for their future visits to the flood areas.
We were grateful for the good organization that Captain Asif in Peshawar had arranged. Each family that was to be helped had a paper with their name and identification number on it and they were numbered from 1 to 100. After showing their identification card and giving their thumb print they were given a canvas bag with cooking utensils, pots, buckets, plates, cups, and kettles. They also received a foam mattress, a quilt and a large pillow. Everyone was very grateful for these very useful items. We did this in three places for a total of 300 families being assisted and it all ran very smoothly. We were able to have prayer at each location. We were joined by a few of the Bishops of other denominations and even a Muslim leader came and shared a few words at one of them. We also had the MPA (Member of Provincial Assembly) for the Peshawar area Prince Javed participate in one of the distributions. We are expecting to help at least 3,000 families in this area alone.
After a long day of passing out relief goods we went into Peshawar to spend the night at a guest house. Peshawar was not at all what I expected. It’s really a very large and modern place.
On Sunday morning we did some additional assessments at some of the areas affected by the flood waters. We visited some families whose small mud homes were missing walls and parts of the roof. One home had a large hole in a small bedroom where a woman was in mud up to her neck and had to be pulled out by a few men. They were already working on rebuilding some of the mud walls and in some cases they will use some bricks. It’s not that much stronger, since they don’t use cement with the bricks – only mud. One little boy in this area was holding a 9 mm pistol which he seemed to keep at his side, somewhat hidden. I wasn’t sure if it was real or a toy, but being an American in Peshawar I felt my heart race a bit. I called him and some other boys near to me for a picture. It’s hard to imagine the affect that all of this is going to have on the children. My heart was aching for each of them.
The really disturbing place that we visited was a village called Azhakhel, which as it turns out was an Afghan Refugee Camp. As I looked at the map it appears this place is right at the bend in the river. Another village just to the west is called Pabbi and they were hit just as hard. As far as we could see in either direction was total destruction. Villagers told us that there were around 15,000 families in these places, but we couldn’t verify that.
The work of recovery and rebuilding here in Pakistan will take years. They were already so far behind, but this will just send them back even further. I wish I could rely on the generous gifts from around the world to give what is necessary, but considering how Pakistan has become alienated from so many I don’t see that happening. I wish more people could see the Pakistan that I have come to see in the last six months. I’m certain they would give more.”
If you would like to support The Salvation Army’s relief efforts in Pakistan, you can donate by clicking here.
The Salvation Army in Pakistan continued its initial response to the floods that have are now thought to have affected 20 million people by distributing bedding and cooking utensil packs to 300 families in Charsada. An assessment team visited Charsada a week earlier and discovered that the floods had devastated the town, wrecking homes and businesses.
The distribution team included Lieut-Colonel Yousaf Ghulam (Chief Secretary of the Salvation Army’s Pakistan Territory) and Lieut-Colonel Rebecca Yousaf (Territorial Secretary for Women’s Ministries).
The first distribution, to 100 families, took place at Charsada Bible Church. Lieut-Colonel Ghulam spoke to community members, offering sympathy.
The Bishop of Peshawar arrived during the distribution and thanked The Salvation Army for its work. Members of the local media were also present and asked many questions about The Salvation Army.
The next distribution was in a hujra (an annex to a main building) in Charsada for two hundred Muslim families. There was a large crowd of people already gathered when the team arrived but the proceedings went smoothly. The chief secretary gave a short message for the community and the bishop offered words of comfort. Local Member of the Provincial Assembly (MPA) Mr Javed Prince added a few words of sympathy for the community.
One of the recipients in Charsada was Noor Ali, a student. He told the Salvation Army team that his family fled their home when the waters began to rise. When they returned home the house was full of water.
He said: ‘We are determined to face this big challenge. We will do hard work to reconstruct our houses. At the moment we are having problems but we are brave and we can fight.’
Imran Azm, a policeman who works in Peshawar, collected supplies for his parents. He told team members that he is determined to provide for his family.
Both Noor and Imran expressed their gratitude for what they described as a ‘token of love’ given by The Salvation Army.
The next day, the team visited Academy Town Corps (Salvation Army church) to meet affected families. Assessment visits were also made to Nowshera, Pabi, Jahangia and Aza khail, all communities near the River Kabul.
In Aza khail the team saw people in desperate need. The community of around 15,000 people was near to the river and its houses were washed away. The people who remain explained that many bodies have yet to be found because they were swept away by the flood or buried under rubble.
The community members asked for tents to provide shelter. The Salvation Army is putting together funds so it can look to buy a large number of tents that will begin to address some of the people’s most urgent needs.