Recover, Rebuild, Rebirth
New Orleans is arguably one of the most culturally important cities in America, but because of history, tradition and lack of foresight it had fallen far behind most other American cities in terms of economic opportunity and basic services and infrastructure, even before Katrina.
During our visit we learned that New Orleans and Louisiana has embarked upon a new beginning to build a solid foundation upon which the residents of not only the Lower Ninth Ward (the area most directly affected by the levee breaks and flood waters), but all of the other affected neighborhood as well, can stand as they recover from the storm and remake their communities stronger than before.
This new beginning is best encapsulated in the blue and yellow banners displayed throughout the city – Louisiana Recover, Rebuild, Rebirth
Here are the “facts”, as best we could gather as to what New Orleans is recovering from:
Three days after Hurricane Katrina, 80% of New Orleans was flooded. Whether a house was flooded with 1 foot of water or 10 feet, the damage was the same – total ruin. The number of housing units damaged, destroyed, or inaccessible in New Orleans because of Katrina: 250,000. To date 30% of these units have been restored.
Since Katrina there has been: a 45% drop in the population and a 32% drop in employment opportunities
In 2008, 86 of the 130 public schools were in full operation and student enrollment is about 60% of what it was pre-Katrina.
Only 1 of the 7 hospitals that serve New Orleans is operational again.
Here’s where things start to get better with the rebuilding process. We interacted and worked with many groups. Bill, John and Will are going to share with you some of our experiences.
We learned that every one of the ministries and organizations we worked with has shifted. No longer are they just addressing post Katrina recovery but rather a larger vision of community rebuild and improvement.
All of these organizations need our help. With this shift away from just post Katrina recovery comes a new phase of funding. We witnessed funding cuts first hand, when Jesse, one of the young men staying in the house with us lost his job with the Episcopal Community Services.
We will have a full list of these groups and their contact information on the blog and in the newsletter. We encourage you to learn more about them and support them.
We were in New Orleans at a time of rebirth. We were there for The Saints and the Super Bowl, Marti Gras and a newly elected mayor. He received 60% of the votes and ran on a slate with 10 other candidates.
In closing, I want to share with you two stories.
You may have seen on the parish blog pictures of Beverly and her dog, Sweetie. Last Sunday, on Valentine’s Day, Will and I sent her an e-mail along with some photos of Beverly, Sweetie and Will.
She responded by saying, ”Thanks so much for the wonderful pictures! The parades and all the hoopla about the New Orleans Saints and Super Bowl have really transformed the city with a whole new outlook for 2010 and beyond. Well, after waiting for 43 years you can just about imagine how the fans are celebrating to the max. And of course, add in Mardi Gras madness and things are at a fever pitch!! The energy has rally provided us with the feeling of a new beginning for New Orleans!”
One night Will & I wanted BBQ. We got a ride from a cab driver who had been driving for 30 years. We took her to a part of town where she questioned whether we were misinformed as to the recommended restaurant was located. When we got there and Will verified that we were at the correct place, she touched my arm and looked into my eyes and said, “I want to thank you, your group and your church for being here, for helping and for not forgetting us. We need you. Thank you and bless you all.”
Thank you everyone for supporting the Mission Group and the people of New Orleans.