One Year Later: Restoring Community

United States, August 22, 2006

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Mercy Corps helped thousands of hurricane-affected children reconnect with friends, classmates and schools to strengthen the healing process. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps

Many parts of the Gulf Coast still bear the telltale marks of Hurricane Katrina's fury and aftermath. High water marks on houses tell the story of the flood in New Orleans. The twisted wreckage of homes and businesses still litters the landscape across coastal Mississippi. Roads and bridges still lay broken by the wind and storm surge.

It's true that, one year after Hurricane Katrina shocked us all, there's a lot of work to be done. But we invite you to take a look beyond the ruined houses and see how hurricane survivors have begun to rebuild their lives starting with their own strong spirits, courage to return and will to persevere.

Some of the remarkable stories include:

  • Lynn Hobbs, who is using a Mercy Corps grant to bring vision care and eyeglasses to thousands of children around New Orleans - even after she lost her own son to the hurricane's aftermath;
  • Reverend Gilbert Scie, who is organizing residents of New Orleans' historic Holy Cross neighborhood to keep their community alive;
  • Ken "Afro" Williams, who returned to New Orleans just weeks after the hurricane to lead drum circles and other musical events, helping ensure the survival of New Orleans' colorful culture.

Mercy Corps is helping the Gulf Coast recover, one person at a time. Over our 25 years of global humanitarian experience, we've discovered that rebuilding is strongest when accomplished by those who have survived disasters like Hurricane Katrina. So, the foundation for our work in Louisiana and Mississippi has been those survivors.

A year of linking people back together

Since beginning emergency operations in early September 2005, Mercy Corps has implemented relief and recovery programs across the 90,000-square-mile disaster zone. Our work has even stretched all the way into Texas, where our Comfort for Kids program has reached thousands of hurricane-displaced children suffering from stress, grief and loss.

Mercy Corps has spent or committed approximately $7.6 million over the last 12 months for hurricane relief and recovery programs. These resources, generously contributed by thousands of individuals and groups, have helped us to reach nearly 250,000 people.

Our work is about linking people back together to help the Gulf Coast build back better.

"At this one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, neighborhood associations are the best prospect for real recovery," said Denise Barrett, Director of Mercy Corps' Gulf Coast Hurricane Recovery Program.

Reconnecting neighbors

Over the last year Mercy Corps has helped thousands of children, families and individuals to take a critical first step in their own recovery: re-connecting with the neighbors, schools, churches and communities they draw moral and emotional support from. Without the spirit of community, newly rebuilt structures are lifeless shells.

It takes neighbors to restore a neighborhood.

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina scattered Gulf Coast residents, particularly citizens of New Orleans, across the United States. Thousands have yet to return to their communities, making it hard for the rebuilding - and healing - to truly begin in earnest.

Mercy Corps is finding ways to encourage those families to return. From cultural preservation to counseling for children, from small grants to strengthening local organizations, Mercy Corps is helping rebuild communities along the Gulf Coast. Our philosophy in areas battered a year ago by Hurricane Katrina is the same as our philosophy around the world: we believe that human ingenuity and force of will can inspire innovative solutions to any problem.

One year after Hurricane Katrina, imagination and energy are re-shaping the devastated Gulf Coast. And it's being accomplished one person at a time.

There's still a lot of work to be done along the Gulf Coast - and we are committed to helping families rebuild. Please help the region's recovery by donating to our Gulf Coast Recovery Fund.