Hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused the largest disaster in U.S. history, scattering more than 750,000 Gulf Coast residents around the country, killing at least 1,800 people, destroying 275,000 homes and causing more than $100 billion in economic and physical losses. VH1 "Get Up Stand Up" is a collaboration with Mercy Corps, an international humanitarian agency, to help carry out short term and long term Hurricane relief efforts. In the aftermath of Katrina, VH1 organized a companywide drive that donated school supplies, tools and other needed equipment to Mercy Corps to help with recovery efforts. In addition, throughout the year VH1 donated airtime for Mercy Corps PSAs and created several Mercy Corps related VH1 News segments to bring awareness and updates to our audience about recovery efforts in the Gulf.
VH1 News talked to New Orleans percussionist Ken "Afro" Williams about rebuilding the city one year later.
MERCY CORPS - UNITED STATES: HURRICANE KATRINA RELIEF AND RECOVERY
In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Mercy Corps dispatched a response team that procured an estimated $500,000 worth of essential supplies for survivors, including generators, bedding, water, food, construction tools, disinfectant materials and tarpaulins. Today, Mercy Corps' Gulf Coast program is focused on improving the well-being of hurricane-affected youth, revitalizing New Orleans neighborhoods, promoting a neighborhood-based economic recovery and giving beleaguered not-for-profit agencies in Louisiana and Mississippi the tools they need to support the most vulnerable of those displaced by the storm.
MERCY CORPS' APPROACH:
Mercy Corps' work along the hurricane-affected Gulf Coast engages communities in the process of rebuilding the city and addressing some of the conditions - poverty, lack of civic participation - that made them more vulnerable. Mercy Corps is applying the lessons they've learned in empowering impoverished, war-stricken and disaster-ravaged communities around the globe to help New Orleans neighborhoods and other communities along the Gulf Coast transform themselves into better places to live and work.
Mercy Corps is dedicated to accomplishing its work in partnership with other capable organizations.
MERCY CORPS REBUILDING EFFORTS TO DATE:
YOUTH WELL-BEING AND CULTURAL HERITAGE
Since last summer, Mercy Corps distributed 70,000 bags and backpacks full of comforting toys and materials as well as school supplies to children of all ages across the disaster zone through Comfort for Kids, a partnership between Mercy Corps, Bright Horizons Family Solutions and JPMorgan Chase. Mercy Corps also built a team of local mental health and education professionals to educate around 200 front-line caregivers on helping children and adolescents deal with their trauma. In consultation with other agencies, Mercy Corps awarded nearly $1 million to youth-focused social-service programs including daycare facilities, schools, non-profits and summer camps in four parishes of Louisiana and two counties in Southern Mississippi.
Mercy Corps is also working to preserve the region's distinct cultural heritage, which is now threatened by Katrina-related displacement. Through local partners such as Hypersoul, Backstreet Museum, and others, Mercy Corps sponsors events in schools and traditional public spaces around New Orleans that incorporate traditional brass bands, drumming circles and Mardi Gras Indians.
NEIGHBORHOOD REVITALIZATION AND ECONOMIC RECOVERY
To ensure local communities have the technical skills and wherewithal to rebuild, Mercy Corps is supporting four neighborhood associations in the city's Ninth Ward and other hurricane-affected areas in their attempts to organize their return. Mercy Corps' economic-recovery strategy is led by what neighborhoods want, and brings together deconstruction opportunities, loans and grants for small businesses and critical not-for-profit organizations.
Mercy Corps is promoting deconstruction as an alternative to demolition, forming a coalition of preservation and environmentally focused groups and helping local contractors gain the skills and know-how to complete the jobs. In addition, Mercy Corps is working with the local Hope Credit Union (HOPE) to identify local businesses for dozens of loans of $1,000 to $15,000 each to help replace assets, purchase inventory and/or renovate facilities for small businesses. They also provided grants of $2,500 to a handful of businesses in the most heavily impacted neighborhoods.
CONTINUED GENERAL RECOVERY
Mercy Corps continues to address the ongoing needs of low-income evacuees and their historically depressed communities in Louisiana and Mississippi. Already, they've provided nearly $375,000 to four agencies responding to the influx of evacuees in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and gave $43,000 to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans, which increased deliveries 15-fold in the month after the storm. In Jackson County, Mississippi, Mercy Corps recently provided the Mississippi Home Again Relief Fund (MHA) with $78,000 to help assess needs and deliver small, targeted quick impact grants to community-based recovery initiatives in chronically poor areas of the County, where evacuees have maxed out social services that were already stretched thin before Katrina.
While much has been accomplished during the past year, there is still much more work to be done. To send funds directly to Mercy Corps write, call or visit:
MERCY CORPS' HURRICANE KATRINA RESPONSE FUND
PO Box 2669
Portland, OR 97208-2669
For more information on additional relief agencies that are helping with recovery efforts in the Gulf Region and how you can help, click here.