Monday, January 30, 2006

Urgent Call for a Volunteer

I need assistance with the Water Missions International video/interview project. I will be heading to Pearlington MS leaving here very early Tuesday, Jan. 31. So I will be in the Atlanta area by 10 A. M. on January 31 and arrive in Pearlington the same day before dark.

On the way back, I will leave Pearlington on Saturday morning Feb.4 and be in the Atlanta area by 4 P. M. The times are accurate because on the last trip back we left Pearlington at 10 A. M. and was in Atlanta by 5:30 P. M. Please contact me if you are interested in going with me on this trip. I will have an extended cab Water Missions International truck on this trip and will need help driving. Thanks. Bob Britts

Robert P. " Bob" Britts
330 Spruce Glen Road
Lexington SC 29072
803 356 2208

Monday, January 16, 2006

Dessert First - A Note from Paula Buhr....

Well, it has been an exciting ride since Miss Katrina hit. The Clinic has come a long way from our first hole in the wall (literally) at the fire station. We had 1-1/2 walls and the rest studs. The walls we did create were out of water and baby formula. The selves were palettes the National Guard from N.C. made with their little army hacksaw. There were dirty tires and mud all over. The ground was still messy and stinky. I still remember their faces and need for food and water. They were opening cans with anything they could find. The town stunk like dead stuff and swamp mud. The story is a long one and the last six months has been colored with so many truly selfless giving people....the entire country responded and the helicopter pilots from Florida should be thanked for alerting everyone that flew with them about the "desperate people in this little town by the river." They were the Privateers from Fla. They told me it was worse than Iraq and said I needed to go. Well, I did, and never expected God to fill my life with a new adventure in management - Katrina style.

My mission for the Clinic was to leave it to the locals and so now, after several weeks of talking to Coastal Family Practice we, ( Gene, Linda, and myself) feel it is time to leave. Coastal is staffed enough to send a Doctor two days a week. Coastal lost two clinics during the hurricane and they are still trying to recover. This past week the baton was passed to them and they have sent a Nurse Practitioner and a Doctor to take care of the patients. Gene and Linda have gone to Linda's sister's place in Va. The sister has been diagnosed with an Astrocytoma brain tumor and is not doing very well. Gene and Linda have truly spent thousands of dollars of their own money to support the Clinic and have loved the people of Pearlington through all of this. Please pray for her sister. They want to return to live there in the summer. As we come and go in and out of Pearlington, remember to smile and hug the people with gladness and joy. The days are joyful in the recovery phase and we all have to help them make it. The sunshine and hope is returning to their lives.

We took extras from the clinic to start the FIRST EVER Mississippi Medical Reserve Response Team. It has 50 members now and we are ready for next year. Mississippi is broke, so pray for donations by next hurricane season.

As first on the ground, I would like to thank Hootie, Dee, FEMA Royce and MEMA Mike and Rocky Pullman. We have been down a lot of bumpy roads during this thing and these guys were there when she hit and are still helping at the EOC. They need free vacations in Hawaii when this is over because they have not CRACKED or LOST IT. They have given us the life-saving help we needed in Pearlington and when it hit the fan with wacky personalities, they stood by us and said, "If you did not hear it from us; it is not true." So call the Governors office every chance you get and tell them about these selfless men and women!

Life is short as we all is go for the gusto. Throw your head back and howl at the moon. Eat dessert first, and by all means, give of your time to those who have less than you do.

God Bless America and thank all you church groups and volunteers for saving my home state!

I love you all,
Paula Buhr

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

On-the-Ground in Pearlington - Jan. 10, 2006

Things are continuing to unfold in Pearlington and recovery is well underway. I am told there are hopeful signs everywhere and that the New Year has brought a renewed sense of cooperation and a more upbeat tenor to the community. More and more people are going back to work and things are generally starting to improve in some measurable ways.

The Charles B. Murphy Elementary school is still standing. Despite the school board informing the town that portions of it would be bulldozed in December, that has not happened. Apparently, they have until January 15th to do so, or lose their FEMA funding for that task. People have been in to “re-assess the damage” but no one knows what that really means. In November, Frank Nadell of the Carbondale Fire Department and I decided to clean the school as much as possible, to use as storage space and to restore as much of it as possible in an effort to change the perception that it was damaged beyond repair. Frank and his colleague Matt, in concert with many volunteers, did an outstanding job and let’s all pray that it changes the outcome.

The Pearl*Mart is still in operation and is being supervised by local Larry Randall. Laurie Spaschak, the former Red Cross Shelter Manager (late October/early November) has returned on her own time (dime) and is managing the Recovery Center. She has the computers up and running again, yet there is no phone or internet service there, nor in the vast majority of the town. Cell phones remain the only reliable form of communication from within and everyone’s cell phone bill is taking a beating. Paula Buhr was there recently doing some business with the Clinic and reports that both Larry and Laurie are doing an outstanding job.

There is one shower unit left and it is scheduled to be demobilized by the end of the month. There is still plenty of volunteer shelter, both in the former Library of the school and in adjacent rooms that we also cleaned out in November. The Red Cross food tent is still providing three squares a day. A woman comes in from FEMA once a week to deal with issues pertaining to the trailers and Laurie reports that she is functional and cooperative.

The Clinic, contrary to rumour, is not closed but it has undergone some evolution. It has been a difficult asset to hang onto and there are many political and even legal issues to consider. The long and short of it is that the materials there have been culled (there was enough for several clinics) and put aside safely by Paula (who brought much of it with her in early September) for an ongoing First Response Unit. There were many skids on the lot of medical supplies that were not appropriate for a Clinic; rather, they were supplies more suitable for a surgical unit or a hospital. These have now been removed. The Clinic will still be in operation two days a week - Tuesdays and Thursdays and locals will still be served in as generous a way as possible. Long-term volunteer staff there have had to cycle out for rest and so there will no longer we a daily presence possible there.

Current needs now call for a different kind of materiel: building, hardware and electrical supplies; hand and power tools, screws, nails, sheet rock, plywood, etc.

There are several issues to which our Coalition could address itself:

1) There is still NO postal service in Pearlington;
2) There is an urgent need for independent volunteer housing; some groups have expressed an interest in this. If you have money, resources and/or person power to contribute to this, please contact me and I will coordinate the effort. We are currently checking with MEMA - the state version of FEMA, who leases the field beside the school, to see if that would be suitable, available and constant enough a place upon which to build it. If our work is to continue, we cannot afford to be at the whim of local politics for safe housing.
3) There is an equally urgent need for safe storage. If valuable material is going to be shipped to town, to help in the rebuilding, I believe two things are mandatory: firstly, that there be a safe and independent location in which to store such material and secondly, that there be someone on site to receive, log, confirm receipt, manage and protect these resources. The chronic challenge persists: what does one do when there are 600 homes needing sheet rock, for example, and only 100 sheets of it? I question whether it is fair to ask a local to take that kind of pressure. Been there, done that a hundred times and it can be quite unpleasant and requires a degree of impartiality and fairness that I think only an outsider can be perceived to be capable of. All suggestions are welcome.

I will be in Pearlington on January 31 for a week. If you have needs I can address personally at that time, please let me know. With a slightly torn rotator cuff in my right shoulder (probably from straight-arming a 50-lb. tent in the haste of early September, or something) I’m not sure I’m much use as a labourer, but I do have other talents. I will do what’s needed.

I will be building on a Field Study started in early December by Paula Buhr, Eileen Powers and others. It would be great to know more precisely HOW many trailers are still needed, pumps, electrical etc. However, the situation there is constantly changing, as more people formerly in “exile” - that is, staying with relatives, in hotels and alternative housing - are returning to town all the time.

Thank you all for your participation in what is turning out to be a unique model of cooperation between a wide variety of groups with the wisdom and will to keep only the mission and a successful outcome in their hearts and minds.

God bless,
“Canada Jon” White

P.S. Additional links have been added to this site and to the Report Card site, located at the Report Card blog - check them out!

Christmas in Pearlington

Here are some excerpts of messages I’ve received from Tammy Wake, a resident of Pearlington, concerning Christmas celebrations provided by volunteers:

“Just wanted to drop you a line and let you know what a wonderful holiday the children in Pearlington had. We were getting trucks almost everyday from different churches or volunteers. They brought all kinds of presents for the children. I believe for some children this Christmas was better then they ever had. I believe it was one of the better Christmas most people have had.”

Tammy goes on to say:

“We could use building materials because people are now starting to rebuild their homes. We could also use some folks who could give us an estimate on repairs to their house. A lot of folks need estimates for their insurance or SBA, but they can't seem to find anyone. We still have the food tent which is great. I try to go as often as I can and most of the time they have a little bit of food left, which I hope is due to people eating there. I see a lot of houses being gutted out which is a good sign. Several groups of volunteers gutted Sue Taylor’s house and she was very happy. I heard there is a group of volunteers from Canada here and we also made the news in Chatanooga TN. Some guys who are from there saw it and came to cut trees for us. Have a Happy New Year and keep in touch.”