With a new hurricane season in sight and concerns about the ability of charitable organizations, such as the Red Cross, to effectively respond, it is important to note that the speed with which people get back to “normal” is critical to the success of recovery operations.
It is a testament to the extent of the damage inflicted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that cleanup and recovery still continue over six months after the first storm struck the Gulf Coast.
I talked to a woman at church last Sunday who recently relocated here from New Orleans. She said something that has stuck with me ever since:
“What is happening there now is worse than the water when the levies broke. Now there is hopelessness, despair and no access to good medical care,” she said.
In my volunteer work with the Red Cross through PRSA’s Power of Two program, I have been trained to respond to immediate needs: food, water, shelter, basic medical needs for the first hours, weeks and months after a disaster. I work closely with my local chapter, which in addition to large disasters such as Katrina, responds to four to five house fires every week.
But what about the long-term needs of families?
For those of us that are communicators for companies and non-profits that provide these needs, how do we get support for these efforts?
It is a question I have been asking myself a lot lately. I have a client who builds modular homes. Some of these homes are currently being built for residents in Pass Christian, Miss., a sleepy little southern town on St. Louis Bay, at the border with Louisiana, which was severely damaged by Katrina.
Therefore, it was with great interest that I listened Edelman’s Insight podcast, Perspectives on Katrina this weekend. The podcast is hosted by Phil Gomes, features Edelman employees participating in a volunteer cleanup effort with Tourism Cares for Tomorrow.
It also features a few interviews with people from Pass Christian. One of the most interesting ideas came from Chip McDermott, the Mayor Pro-Tem of Pass Christian who said that until this disaster, he had never considered doing anything but sending money. The volunteers that have flooded to the town to help with cleanup has taught him a lesson.
“You’ve taught us that the next time something like this happens. We will go and help, I can promise you that,” he said.
If you have ever gone on a humanitarian or missions trip to help people directly, you know that you get more out of the experience than you put into it.
In addition to Operation Link Love, I want to urge the PR blogging community to give a little more. Start by sharing for what causes you volunteer your most precious commodity…your time?