My staff has been down in New Orleans and on the Gulf Coast for nearly a month now setting up and running our own relief effort with Veterans for Peace. The overwhelming response from so many of you has directly affected the lives of thousands of people. Here's what we've been able to do with your help:
** Over 500 tons of food, water, clothing, medical supplies, baby products, feminine hygiene products, cleaning supplies, power tools, and a boat and trailer for reaching those still flooded by water have been distributed directly to those in need
** Over 10,000 aid packages have been sent by you via UPS and FedEx to our camp and distributed
** Over two million dollars in donations, food, water, and supplies have been sent and distributed
** Tractor trailers, dozens of 20 foot trucks, six school buses, and other vehicles arrived loaded with supplies. Most stayed on to help distribute donations
** Over 200 chainsaws, 100 generators and 2,000 gallons of bleach have been distributed
** Doctors, physician's assistants, nurse practitioners, psychologists, registered nurses, LPNs, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, and social workers have volunteered from across the country and joined forces with us to create several mobile medical units providing prescription medication, first aid supplies, diabetic testing equipment, insulin and tetanus shots for those digging through the rubble of their homes
** People got in their cars and drove from 37 states to work with us in our camp
But beyond all these statistics are the personal testimonies of what my staff has experienced. Electricity was provided to a family whose young son suffers from Cystic Fibrosis, allowing him to continue his treatment until electricity in his neighborhood was restored. A 60 year old woman on a respirator was found, still in her home despite a gaping hole in the roof. We patched the roof and gave her food and water. Supplies were delivered to the Houma Indians, who had received no help (not even a visit) from the Red Cross or FEMA. A roof was put on their Cultural Center in Golden Meadows and a generator was provided to keep a years supply of seafood from spoiling in the sun. A man in Lefitte was found sitting on his porch, the house surrounded by four feet of water. A canoe-load of supplies was paddled to his doorstep by two of our volunteers. New Orleans evacuees joined our efforts. They served as our guides, leading us through now decimated communities and taking us to the areas of greatest need.
You can read more of these in the diaries posted here.
The harsh truth that I must report to you is that the federal government and Red Cross relief efforts are still a disorganized, embarrassing mess with little or no help reaching most people – this more than a month after Katrina. It is the freelance guerilla efforts like ours that are getting through. We aren't waiting for approval and we aren't stopping. We will make sure Bush and Co. pay for their failure later, but right now hundreds of thousands are homeless, hungry and in need of medical attention. And the rest of us have a responsibility to help them.
We have joined forces with S.O.S. Katrina, an organization that began as a temporary coalition of pre-existing community organizations that is doing amazing work with volunteers. They have become, with your help, a bright light offering immediate relief to the families who have lost everything. Find out what S.O.S. Katrina and other similar relief groups need, right now, from you.
The relief effort's base of operations has moved two hours away from New Orleans to a more permanent location where there are reliable communication lines, shelter and a staging area for the distribution of supplies.
Thanks again, everyone, for lending a hand. We won't give up and we know you won't either.
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