Thursday, June 15, 2006

caroline batchelor on biloxi/katrina

Ken's note: Caroline Batchelor is a member of Providence UMC, and a rising senior at UVA.

"My name is Caroline Batchelor, and on Friday I returned from Providence’s College Mission Trip to Biloxi, Mississippi, a town on the Gulf of Mexico devastated by Hurricane Katrina last August. Our small group of nine was assembled from three different United Methodist churches around the Charlotte area. In Biloxi we worked in several homes, all of which experienced different degrees of damage and all in different stages of rebuilding as the victims still work to bring their lives and homes as close as possible to what they were before the storm.

I remember seeing the news footage of Katrina in August and was horrified at the level of devastation and destruction caused by the hurricane. But to be honest, here we are nine months later, and before last week I didn’t think about Katrina very much. After leaving the newspaper headlines, it eventually left my consciousness as well. But the past week has been not only a reminder of Katrina, but a complete immersion into its effects. As you drive through Biloxi, Katrina is still everywhere. Small FEMA trailers, in which families live as they wait for the chance and the help to slowly rebuild, are spotted in the front yards of almost every house. Debris is still piled along the streets in many places, and some homes, like one in which we worked, still haven’t even been “mucked,” a term I quickly learned describes the first step in the process of tearing down a home destroyed by water damage in order to rebuild it.

Despite the tedious pace at which the Gulf Coast is rebuilding, and the everyday reminders for most victims that they have lost nearly everything except themselves, and if fortunate, their families and the structures of their homes, I witnessed immense hope in the people of Biloxi. Much of this hope, I believe, is the result of the large influx of volunteers that have traveled to the Gulf Coast to help in any way they can. One afternoon as I sat with Cathy, a homeowner with whom we worked, amidst a pile of her belongings still stacked in disarray outside her home, she told me that she believes wholeheartedly that volunteer work is responsible for an overwhelming amount of the progress that Biloxi has made. I think she’s right. Volunteers not only provide the much needed labor that many victims can neither find nor afford, but the love and empathy expressed in the work of volunteers helps rebuild a devastated region in ways that construction crews cannot.

It is appropriate that I share my experiences with you before the offering, because it is the financial generosity of this church that made our trip possible. I know that I and my crew are overwhelmingly grateful for the opportunity to go to Biloxi, however, the real thanks lies with a handful of patient and brave Mississippians who have experienced the manifestations of your generosity this week. This Sunday morning Linda and Aubrey have new cabinets, Matt has a roof, Cathy has walls, tile floors and door ways, and Alfra and Ruth have one less room infested with mold. This congregation is deserving of their gratitude. Thank you, and please keep Biloxi, and the people of the Gulf Coast in your prayers".


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