Native Americans Fight Uranium Mining
KTC Enjoys Kwanzaa Celebration
December 10, 2007
Dear Plenty Friends,
Its that time of year again when we can take an unblinking look at all the despair, greed, violence, selfishness, pain and injustice around us and around the world, and exercise our compassion for the victims in the knowledge that we all have the power to heal.
Mr. Vernon Washington
Im writing this after we learned three days ago that our good friend, the 87-year-old Mr. Vernon Washington who lost everything to hurricane Katrina and whose gutted house we have been able to completely renovate, was evicted from his FEMA trailer two days before we would have been able to get his electricity turned on so he could have heat. He was offered a hotel room but because he just wanted to be back in his own home, unbeknownst to our crew, he went to sleep on a mattress on the bare floor and died during a cold night in New Orleans. As Im just writing this now I get a call from Tony Sferlazza, our Gulf Recovery Program Director. Hes in the parking lot of a hardware store in New Orleans with 84-year-old Emma Prebost. They were there to get some things for Emmas house that Tony and numerous Plenty volunteers had been working to repair from its gutted state back in the spring. Tony is telling me that his van with all his tools has just been stolen! Tonys not the first contractor who went to New Orleans to help people rebuild who has had their tools and/or truck stolen. In most cases like this everything gets sold off before it can be retrieved. This is going to set us back, but we cant just up and leave. Tony wrote me in an email: "My phone rang all weekend from families that just need a few things done to move in to their homes. Im going to ride my bike over to meet some of them now and just remind myself that Katrina victims started over with losing everything and we will survive."
Take your Vernon Washingtons and Emma Prebosts and people like Linda Audibert and Rudy Aguilars family and multiply them by the tens of thousands who have no advocates and no Plenty crews to at least make them feel like they have not been completely abandoned and you begin to understand the extent of the on-going disaster more than two years and three months after the storm. A few weeks ago at a public event in New Orleans a representative of one of the mainstream churchs relief organizations came up to Tony and asked if Plenty could take on the more than one-hundred families on their list of homes to repair. The organization had run out of money for Katrina relief and was pulling out. Sadly, programs like Louisianas Road Home are paralyzed by bureaucratic gridlock and an absence of understanding about how much can be done for people for a lot less than was originally projected if the work is performed by honest contractors and nonprofit volunteer groups like Plenty. It cost Plenty $4,000 and Mr. Washington $7,000 to completely renovate his house. If we had the volunteers like we had for Mr. Washington, we could do the same for a number of other families on our list. Of course, first we will have to replace Tonys van and tools! (Dear Santa...)
We had a heartening visit to Plenty Belize in November and were inspired to see that over the course of this past year the organization has become fully Belizean, meaning that all staff and Board members are native-born Belizean except Executive Director Mark Miller who is American-born but now a Permanent Resident of Belize. Plenty Belize is firing on all cylinders (except for the pick-up truck that just died), helping to manage the gardens at schools throughout the Toledo District, holding teacher trainings for gardening and nutrition ed, giving out micro-business grants and providing small business management trainings, installing photovoltaic systems and assisting womens development and womens issues programs. Theyve been fortunate to attract some grants from outside funders such as the European Union, the UNs FAO, Belizes Protected Area Conservation Trust PACT, and Onaway Trust, but Plenty International continues to contribute the largest percentage of their budget. In fact, individual donors continue to provide the largest percentage of Plentys budget, about 70% (just so you know how mightily important your contributions are and how eternally grateful we are).
Al Gores Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech is a ringing, eloquent, no holds barred call to action to Save the Earth and Its Inhabitants. He says, We are what is wrong, and we must make it right. The way ahead is difficult. The outer boundary of what we currently believe to be feasible is still far short of what we actually must do. Moreover, between here and there, across the unknown, falls the shadow. That is just another way of saying that we have to expand the boundaries of what is possible."
We thank you for everything and here's wishing you and yours an expansive, joyful and peaceful holiday season.
PS: News Flash! The van was found, slightly damaged, but in running condition, and Lowes gave us a half price deal on replacements for all the tools that were stolen and the SHARE Foundation in Pennsylvania donated $1500 toward the purchase of tools which covered most of the cost. Channel Six in New Orleans did a story about Tony and the stolen/recovered van and the work Plenty has been doing for people like Mr. Washington and Emma Prebost. See the video here.
Read a tribute to Mr. Washington from the New Orleans Times Picayune.
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