Odd though, how each time feels as if it is the first time.
Saturday, June 30, 2007
Odd though, how each time feels as if it is the first time.
She was sitting there painting and I felt something in my heart told me to go and speak with her.
I got out of the car and asked her how she was doing. She told me she was "doing alright".
I told her that I was taking pictures in the neighborhood, that I wrote stories and put the pictures on the Internet
She responded, "that's how I used to spend most of my time before Katrina, on the Internet
I asked her, "do you have everything you need? Did you get your Road Home monies and do you have what you need?"
"Yes", she responded. "I got my Road Home money and I have a contractor working with me." (In this case, what I witnessed on the day I met her, the contractor was one man and she and Mr. Anthony, whom I met a little later, were working on the house with him.
I told her as I watched her painting, "You are a pioneer". "As one woman to another, I admire you and what you are doing."
She laughed and looked up at me, "my son tells me the same thing."
"He calls me a pioneer".
"He asks me why I stay in this neighborhood."
"I tell him this is all I have known for 60 years. I don't know anything else. I have nowhere else to go
I then asked her, "can I take your picture?"
A few minutes later, I pulled the car over to the side of the road on Florida Avenue to eat my packed lunch and photograph the closed mental health clinic. As I was sitting there, I knew I did not get the photograph that I was "supposed" to get when I was with Miss Carol. I could just feel it. Something was missing. When I was done eating and photographing the closed Desire Mental Health Clinic, I went back to Miss Carols house.
When I got out of the car I said to her as she was painting, "Hi Miss Carol, I am back again. I did not get the picture I needed." "I need to take a closeup picture of you."
"The only thing is," I said, " I have a digital camera that is like a camera from the 1900's, once I press the button, I have to wait and count 12 seconds and to get the picture."
"No," she laughed. And I saw that beautiful smile and her beautiful spirit coming through again. That is what I missed on my previous visit.
This time when I photographed her, there was someone else with her painting. When I was done taking the photograph I introduce myself and he told me with dignity and grace, that his name was "Mr. Anthony Whitfield".
Posted by SoulJAH at 11:51 AM
In a moment, everything you knew as your "life" is over.
There are those of your planetary brothers and sisters who are constitutionally capable of facing this level of devastation and tribulation with fortitude and strength. Many of them have come back to the most stricken areas - such as New Orleans, where the levees broke - and are slowly but surely, rebuilding their lives and their homes.
There are others of your planetary brothers and sisters, who will say "That's it. We are going to start over somewhere else and begin again."
Then there are those of your planetary brothers and sisters who, before this 'moment' in their lives came about, were just hanging on - hanging in there. Some were elderly, disabled mentally or physically, or they were living in poverty, for some they were the 'working poor', their lives spent living in "quiet desperation", or in valiant struggle to give their children and grandchildren a better life.
And in a moment - life as they understood it - ended.
Every "thing" that had emotional content, that helped to form identity, that gave meaning and memory to 'life', was over. Gone. Destroyed.
None of us knows how we will react when faced with this level of suffering. If I may, this is why I believe that great efforts towards" judgement free compassion" with discernment, must be made on our planetary brothers and sisters behalf.
The house in the photo below, has not even been "gutted". We are coming up to the 2nd year anniversary of the flooding of the 9th Ward and there are still people who cannot afford, or who cannot emotionally or psychologically "bear" to face the wreckage of their lives as they once understood them, and their homes lie ungutted - a danger to them and the community.
Help is still very much needed in New Orleans, the 9th Ward (Upper and Lower) New Orleans East, St. Bernard Parish, the coastal parish's, the gulf coast, Mississippi...
Your help is needed.
Consider finding a volunteer organization and spending a week of your 'life' giving to those who through no fault of their own, have lost everything that gave their lives meaning.
If you can't come and physically help out, send money! Consider sending a donation to one of the various organizations who are on the ground helping in meaningful ways to rebuild and sustain those who are suffering.
If you can't do either, then hold the suffering of your planetary brothers and sisters in your hearts and remember them. If you pray, pray for them. If you practice mindful meditation, keep them in your minds throughout your day.
Post Script: This poster is not affiliated with any non-profit or government agency. This posting was written to advocate on behalf of those still suffering from the damages of Katrina/Rita and the breaking of the levees in New Orleans. Some - not all, local volunteer opportunities web site links and donation web site links are located at the top right hand side of this blog page.
Your organization not listed? Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know.
Posted by SoulJAH at 11:42 AM
Friday, June 29, 2007
It has been a long 2 months. Mrs. G has really had it hard. Her suffering has been so difficult to bear watching. Sometimes my work involves helping her to stay trustful in the moment. So many well meaning people promise to help her, they get her hopes up and then let her down. Then there are the long days of waiting with no movement forward. Just waiting.
I met Sarah through an online ad I put on Craigslist on the Katrina "Volunteer" listings. I didn't know how to help Mrs. G and could not do the work that needed to be done on my own. Sarah is with Plenty International and responded that she might be able to help with volunteers. Sarah, Stu, Nate, and even Nate's wife Wendy, jumped into the situation and helped Mrs. G immensely.
They also had a volunteer team from Chicago - the 'Beverly Chicago Team' (a group of artists, musicians and students) come in and the team bought $300 worth of supplies towards the rebuilding effort with monies that they had raised to come to New Orleans to help. They ate food at the E.C. Communities kitchen so that their monies went to buying building supplies for Miss Emma, Ceophus, and Mrs. G. (I wish I was as awake in my early 20's and as philanthropic as they are!) By the time they left, many of the windows were repaired, new cabinets were installed in the kitchen and the most important thing of all - new door locks and door handles were put in the double shotgun, both sides.
Sarah, Stu, and Nate were wonderful with Mrs. G. I watched them interact with her with kindness and gentleness and their efforts brought hope and a little joy to Mrs. G. One day whilst the volunteers were working on the house, the volunteers had on a Ray Charles song and Mrs. G began laughing. Suddenly she was singing and dancing, then she got one of the kids dancing with her. In that precious moment she knew hope and it was beautiful to behold. (Jah Bless, precious sister Sarah, Jah Bless).
For weeks after nothing happened. Slowly, Mrs. G began to trust me more and I was able to help her more when I had a greater picture of what her rebuilding needs were such as what agencies she had contacted and what work needed to still be done.
This week a few miracles in a desert of despair manifested. I found an ad placed by a plumber for volunteering. He has asked not to be identified. He is going to put in as much of Mrs. G's plumbing as he can. This is his first time volunteering and he himself lost everything due to Katrina. He makes Mrs. G laugh with his salty humor and simultaneous love of Jesus. He will be coming to work on Mrs. G's this Saturday and his son will be coming with him. (If you ever read this _____, I thank you so much for your generosity and the hope you brought to Mrs. G.)
The second miracle was even more incredible. Mrs. G had a chance to meet family members she had not seen in some time due to a death in the family this week. A female cousin-in-law has come literally to Mrs. G's rescue and is an electrician and handy-woman (go girl power!!!). She is going to finish the work needed to get Mrs. G into her home. It gets better! She is also going to finish the other side of the shotgun double and move in as a tenant when finished.
When they told me this news, I broke down in tears. I had not recognized how deeply troubled I had been since meeting Mrs. G the night she had been robbed over her future well-being. I felt immense joy and a deep sense of relief that she would have someone nearby her who loved and respected her, someone who would look after her.
Now that her cousin-in-law is in her life, I have time to help others. Yesterday I was out driving around photographing and was guided to meet 3 people who are in need of help.
Praise Jah. Praise God.
Many blessings Mrs. G. It is and was, an honour to serve you.
Posted by SoulJAH at 10:42 AM
(Note: I spoke with Ceophus this past weekend. I was waiting to publish this story as Mrs. Lewis was concerned about the possibility of some form of backlash from the electrician who kept promising to come and finish the job he had been paid for.
They decided to pay another electrician to finish the work (again) so that they could get into their home. I called them with the Attorney Generals phone number 2 days ago so that they could report the electrician that took thousands of dollars of their money and never completed his work. This type of contractor fraud is sadly common place in New Orleans. And it is the senior citizens who are mainly their victims. It is heartbreaking.)
Posted by SoulJAH at 12:05 AM
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Posted by SoulJAH at 10:09 PM
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Daily I see women and their children walking in the streets to get to the stores in the hot Louisiana sun - desolate streets with gutted out shells of homes, a majority of businesses still closed, many of the bus lines are still down. For these women, getting the simplest items from the corner store is now a task, as many of the "corner stores" are closed and those in need must walk longer distances to get their family's basic needs met.
Will you remember dear reader?
Prayers for the suffering...
Posted by SoulJAH at 9:44 AM
Monday, June 25, 2007
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Whatever the source of the problem, some people with PTSD repeatedly relive the trauma in the form of nightmares and disturbing recollections during the day. They may also experience sleep problems, depression, feeling detached or numb, or being easily startled. They may lose interest in things they used to enjoy and have trouble feeling affectionate. They may feel irritable, more aggressive than before, or even violent:
PTSD can occur at any age, including childhood. The disorder can be accompanied by depression, substance abuse, or anxiety. Symptoms may be mild or severe--people may become easily irritated or have violent outbursts. In severe cases they may have trouble working or socializing. Symptoms - Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
They report ongoing mental health stresses among all levels of the population, severe fatigue setting in among caregivers, a health care system that continues to be ignored by politicians in Baton Rouge and Washington—all resulting in a city that is demonstrating widespread mental and emotional disorders similar to PTSD and a variety of complicating physical issues.
In short: New Orleans is getting sicker, fast.
African-American ministers, accustomed to providing spiritual guidance to their congregations, are helping members cope with serious mental and emotional disorders nearly a year after Hurricane Katrina hit.
"It is, at times, overwhelming," said Rev. Larry Campbell, assistant pastor of Israelite Baptist Church in the Central City neighborhood. He has counseled worshipers with substance abuse problems and suicidal thoughts, referring some to mental health professionals, when possible.
"There's a sense of hopelessness as it relates to, 'When are we going to get this city back to where it was?"'
New Orleans was a social service nightmare before Katrina. It's mental health infrastructure was likely underfunded like many other inner city services. But the results of the devastating trauma of Katrina spawned flood, people are stressed beyond their ability to cope. Psychiatric beds have shrunk by 80% while many professionals have abandoned the city along with half it it's residents.
It's often those without alternatives who are left to return, to conditions worse than they ever were.
…the most serious health problems directly attributable to the storm have been mental, not physical. In the four months between Aug. 29 and the end of 2005, the Orleans Parish coroner’s office “conservatively” estimates that the suicide rate tripled.”
"People with pre-existing conditions that are made worse by the stress of living here after the storm. "There is no doubt in my mind that Katrina is still killing our residents." Orleans Parish coroner Dr. Frank Minyard said this week.
We're about to head full-force into the hurricane season, and invariably the country will spend a few moments revisiting the stricken Gulf Coast region, but particularly New Orleans. …We'll hear questions about levies, rebuilding and the city's economy."
Perhaps it is no surprise that post-traumatic stress disorder is 10 times higher in New Orleans than in the general public.
"We lost the whole mental health infrastructure in the storm.” "It was inadequate before. Then we lost the clinics, the hospitals, the staff and the administration.". Compounding the problem: More people are suffering from mental ailments.
You may find upon the reading of these articles that some of them are nearly 2 years old - the information contained in them is not only prescient but relevant to the situation on the ground in New Orleans.
Churches battling post-Katrina depression
Nagin demands state provide mental health services
Post-Katrina report: Mental health system deficient in Louisiana PTSD Among New Orleans Residents
New Orleans still suffering from Katrina
Nurses Ask: Does New Orleans Suffer from PTSD? - Local nurses sound public health alarm on conditions in city’s hospitals and clinics, long-term effect on residents, caregivers
Sinking in New Orleans
A City in Crisis - Mental Health in New Orleans - DAILY KOS
Post-Katrina depression triples New Orleans suicide rate
Mental Health Crisis in New Orleans Worsens
New Orleans Mental Health Infrastructure Is Overwhelmed
TOWARDS THE SOLUTION:
Program aiming to fill health care worker shortage
Tuition-free training offered at Delgado
UPDATE August 15, 2007
Posted by SoulJAH at 12:24 PM