Disaster Relief & Recovery

Earthquake relief, Nepal

Training and empowerment of local villagers to rebuild their community


The village of Chupar in the Nuwakot district of Nepal north of Kathmandu had all of its 200 houses destroyed in the earthquake of April 25, 2015. The village school was also destroyed, leaving the children with little or no options for attending classes.  Immediately after the earthquake, we began receiving donations from many kind people to provide food and shelter. Two weeks after the earthquake Uttam Rai and I went to Nepal to distribute several tons of food, more than 200 tarps, and to see what more could be done. For the villagers the highest priority was a school. With no realistic prospect of assistance for the village from the Nepal government, we took on the task of raising more funds to build a new school that would include a clean source of water and proper sanitation.

Last summer a team here in Santa Fe evaluated methods of earthquake resistant construction that would be appropriate for a remote village in the hills of Nepal. We considered many factors, and chose improvements to the traditional building method that are affordable and use locally available materials. Frequent “through-stones” (large flat stones that span the width of the walls), single storey construction, and an appropriate length-to-width ratio for a building all improve earthquake survivability. Along with these practices, we adopted a key enhancement: “gabion banding” where periodic courses of stones are enclosed in a mesh material.

Gabion bands were conceived after the earthquake by the restoration architect Randolph Langenbach. These bands substitute for the wooden ring beams he found embedded in the walls of old buildings throughout the Himalayan region that have survived multiple earthquakes. To our knowledge, the Chupar project is the first to use polypropylene geogrid to hold the stones in a band together, allowing a wall to move during an earthquake without collapse.

Uttam and Budu Rai, Thad and Martha Clark Stewart, and I went to Nepal in early February to begin the rebuilding process. In late March the walls of the school were complete, and a “second shift” of volunteers arrived (Neil McKay and David English) to continue with the construction. All volunteers from the U.S. paid their own way to Nepal. The project paid Uttam’s and Budu’s transportation costs as they were essential to the entire rebuilding process. The villagers themselves did the hard labor of gathering, breaking, and moving large stones to the school site, and building the walls — a tremendous effort.


In February it seemed ambitious to think that a school could be built in two months—but it happened! I’m very happy to report that the 6-room school is now complete and classes are being held in the school!  Also, a water system for the school was built and clean water flows from the tap next to the school. A dedicated composting latrine was under construction when we left and is now complete. A new house was built for Budu Rai’s parents and extended family.  Like all families in the village and throughout the entire region, they were living in a rough, temporary shelter. They are very happy to be in their own home now, built on the same ground as the old one that was destroyed.

Technology Transfer

The Chupar project has been attracting attention from other groups and organizations who are rebuilding in Nepal. A group from Nepal School Projects, a Canadian NGO, came to visit Chupar while we were there to see the construction technique. They plan to rebuild some 80 schools that were damaged or destroyed in Kavre district using gabion banding. Also, the Deboche Project, along with Architects Without Borders of Seattle have expressed an interest in the gabion banding approach and may use it to rebuild the Buddhist nunnery in Deboche, high in the Khumbu (Mt. Everest) region of Nepal. The Bridge Fund has shown interest as well. So, it is good that this approach to rebuilding is starting to reach out across Nepal, offering a traditional method of construction with a simple, affordable addition—gabion banding—that, we believe, will greatly enhance earthquake resistance.

Next Steps

The school can now accommodate grades 1-5, an expansion over the old school that only taught grades 1-3. Now the village faces the challenge of finding more good teachers for the school. Currently, if children want to continue their education beyond what’s offered in Chupar, they have to walk over 2 hours each way to schools that offer through grade 10. More children could further their education if the village offered through grade 10. This would require additional classrooms in buildings like those built this spring.

Only 5% of the households in the village have begun to rebuild. The few houses we saw being built are using traditional methods except that they are now only single-storey. The rest of the families will be living in their temporary shelters through at least one more monsoon and winter. When families are ready to rebuild, we would like to supply geogrid that is unavailable to them. About $500 would cover the cost of geogrid for one typical size house.

The project purchased 135 domestic cook stoves from the Himalayan Stove Project. These stoves greatly improve indoor air quality and reduce firewood consumption. The shipment has been held up in Kolkata (India), and once it arrives in Kathmandu it will be stored until after the monsoon. This autumn the stoves will be delivered to Chupar and, as they are distributed, each recipient will be trained in their use.


What’s been rebuilt already

  • School building
  • Composting latrine for fertilizer
  • School water system
  • Family homes

What has yet to be done

  • Expansion of school campus (above 5th grade)
  • More cooking/heating stoves to improve air quality and health

Technology for earthquake resilience using indigenous resources

  • Gabion Band Technology
  • Resolving conflicts with government initiatives for building standards

Chupar is becoming a model for other villages, being observed

Halchok Reconstruction Project

Disaster Relief & Recovery

Current Activities and Past Efforts

Plenty was founded in 1974 to channel aid and support to families and communities affected by natural disasters, and we have provided disaster relief in many countries, both in the U.S. and abroad since then.

Current Activities 2020-21

* Food and relief aid in response to Hurricanes ETA and IOTA in Central America, November 2020:

  • In Nicaragua we  provided $500 for emergency food to 30 Miskito families in the city of Bilwi, Puerto Cabezas, distributed by the Parroquia de San Pedro Apostal.
  • In Guatemala we provided $1000 to American Friends Service Committee to support their efforts to distribute food, warm clothing, and hygiene supplies to shelters in the Department of Alta Verapaz in northeast Guatemala, one of the most affected areas.

* COVID-19 related support has been provided in Guatemala, Belize, Haiti, Puerto Rico, So. Dakota, and Tennessee. Update to come!

 Plenty’s Relief and Recovery efforts – a chronological summary

Puerto Rico Earthquake (2017-18)

Initial efforts in 2017 included distributing water purification kits and small solar lights in some of the hardest hit areas of the central mountains by two volunteers of AidElevated, a group fiscally sponsored by Plenty. Six portable solar powered high-volume community water filtering units were also sent to Puerto Rico in 2018.

Nepal Earthquake Relief and Recovery (2015 – present)

Plenty fiscally sponsors two relief and rebuilding projects in Nepal, directed and carried out by skilled and dedicated volunteer staff. 

Chupar Village

Immediately after the earthquake in April 2015, this relief and rebuilding effort headed by former Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal, John Vavruska, went into gear – providing food and temporary shelters for the people of Chupar. Further efforts from 2016 to 2019 included rebuilding homes and a new school, built with local labor using traditional methods and Gabon banding for earthquake stability, providing Envirofit cookstoves and more. Continued work in this village will likely be undertaken after the pandemic subsides.

Halchok Village

Here are excerpts from the first letter appeal for this village in 2015:

“As you know, Nepal has suffered a terrible earthquake – in fact two earthquakes, one on April 25 and the second on May 12th. Our son Vajra was in Kathmandu, where he was born, for both quakes and witnessed some of the terrible destruction and loss of life in the Durbar square of Kathmandu where he has an apartment, thankfully in a modern, earthquake-resistant house. Like many people, we immediately responded to the earthquake by giving donations to various institutions dedicated to disaster relief. It soon became apparent that much of the most immediate and elective relief work was being done by small groups of Nepalis and expat foreigners who were supplying relief to communities they knew and had a connection with.
One friend in Santa Fe, John Vavruska, set up a mini relief project for the village of Chupar, ancestral home of other mutual Nepali friends in Santa Fe, Uttam and Budu Rai, funneling donations through a small non-profit: Plenty International http://plenty.local/news/ His effort has inspired us. Just after the first quake, Vajra visited Halcok, the village where we lived for over ten years in the 1980s and 1990s. While he was happy to report that his best friend in Nepal, Sukri Putwar, and his family were safe, there had been widespread destruction of the poorer houses of the village. Vajra wrote us on April 28, “I went up to see Sukri at the village. 56 houses collapsed (out of maybe 100?). All the old houses, gone. It’s as if an entire memory has been erased. Sukri incredibly lucky to be alive. Made me realize that the real destruction in Nepal must be up in the little mountain villages, in the stone houses.”

We decided that we wanted to help, and with the eager participation of the Nepali staff in the office we work with in Nepal, we were able to send up a shipment of food and essential supplies to the homeless villagers encamped below the ruins. We are now planning to provide supplies for more substantial temporary housing, food, sanitation and other priorities.

Please consider adopting Halcok and helping “one village at a time” survive now and rebuild in the future. Thank you. Ian, Lois, Vajra, and Vasundhara Alsop”

Update from Lois & Ian Alsop, July 1, 2018

We are in the final stages of our building phase and nearing the end of our project.

We have completed a total of four new houses after the initial post-earthquake stage of providing food, medicine and temporary shelter to the people of Halchok village.

Here is a link which was sent to all of our donors of a video which was made after the first attempt at building earthquake resistant structures using available local materials and labor.

Following that construction project, we became involved with a local company, Metalwood, which is at the forefront of a new, earthquake-resistant type of metal frame construction which we decided would suit the needs of the village and could be done with village labor and their designs. Three houses have already been built by Metalwood and the villagers in addition to the first model house in the video.

We are now building houses #5 and #6.  As always in Nepal there have been delays in proceeding with plans but we are very satisfied with the first three Metalwood houses which were built between 2017 and 2018.  The villagers are all engaged in the demolishing, clearing of the site, and basic leveling and porter work. Here is a link to a page on the Metalwood site showing their work in the design and construction of  the first house they built for Halchok

After the completion of these last two houses we will not be actively fund raising. Thank you to Plenty for your generous help in making this a reality. 

Lois and Ian”

Super Typhoon Haiyan – the Philippines (2013)

Super Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in November 2013 with brutal force. International relief efforts were massive. Plenty was asked to help the village of Alta Vista on the island of Leyte,  home to about 1,500 people. Every house in the area lost their roof and/or sustained other damage. Alta Vista Elementary School, with 280 k-6th grade students, lost its roof, desks, books and supplies. Plenty provided funds to repair the school and replace books and student supplies. 

 Gulf Coast  (2008 and ongoing)

Louisiana’s Gulf Coast communities are vulnerable to frequent storms and hurricanes and have no protective levee system.

The BP oil disaster in the spring of 2010 added a devastating blow to the Gulf’s environment and the traditional fishing and shrimping livelihoods of its coastal people.

In Terrebonne Parish, working with Tribal leaders, Plenty provided emergency distributions of food and clothing to some of the most impacted Biloxi-Chitimacha families.

Since 2008, thanks to the efforts of Plenty volunteer Elaine Langley and friends, the annual “Bayou Christmas” has provided toys, books, groceries and other aid to over 100 families.  

Replacement beds and mattresses were provided for 16 families after Hurricane Isaac in August 2012, funded by the Philip R. Jonsson Foundation.

Plenty has assisted the Pointe-au-Chene Biloxi-Chitimacha tribe to complete a raised community center that also serves as a tribal office and hurricane shelter, and house a library and computer lab. The center was completed in 2014.

Supporting the people of the Gulf since Katrina enables us to witness longer-term impacts to the health and wellbeing of these highly vulnerable coastal communities.

Haiti earthquake (January 12, 2010)

The National Palace in Port-au-Prince after the earthquake.

When Haiti’s overcrowded capital collapsed into a deadly avalanche of rubble in the massive quake, Haiti was already the most impoverished country in the western hemisphere with 70% unemployment and an infant mortality rate of 60 per thousand births, ten times greater than the US rate.

Elaine gives medicine to a little girl.
Plenty medical volunteer works in a temporary emergency clinic in the village of Cayes Jacmel after the earthquake.

Plenty assistance to Haiti from 2010-13 has largely focused on health and medical needs:

  • Medicines and supplies for the immediate relief effort, and ongoing to the ADHD clinic in La Vallee; water purification tablets to Le Mabouya, a Haitian environmental NGO in Cayes-Jacmel, (southeast Haiti); and to a clinic in Cape Haitian (central plateau), run by the Haitian NGO Sante Total – $7,000
  • Ten heavy-duty wheelchairs designed for rural use by Whirlwind Wheelchairs – $2200
  • Support for clinical volunteers, and teaching workshops for Haitian midwives on Home Based Life Saving Skills – simple interventions that save mother and infant lives – $1,800

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita: (August/September 2005)

Together, these Gulf Coast hurricanes constituted the most devastating natural disaster to hit the U.S. in its history.

NOLA under water
New Orleans was 80% under water three days after Katrina.

Times of great tragedy often generate great compassion, and this disaster was no exception. The world witnessed an unprecedented outpouring of caring and mobilization in response. We are very grateful for the many generous people who channeled their time, talents and funds through Plenty to help.

plastic on roof
Plenty volunteers cover a roof with plastic.

Multiple runs of volunteers and supplies were organized from our home base in Tennessee to assist hurricane victims in Louisiana and Mississippi in building repair, supply distribution, medical care, mold abatement, needs assessment, and more.

Joel gets into it
Volunteers gutted houses in preparation for rebuilding

Other supply and volunteer runs were mobilized from Tennessee, Texas, and Florida. Volunteers came from as far as New York, California, and Oregon.

Plenty team in New Orleans.

Food, water, medical supplies, blankets, heaters, clothing, batteries, cleaning and other supplies were purchased and distributed thanks to donations raised from individuals and community fundraisers. 

Katrina relief work also led to the creation of Plenty’s ongoing program, Books To Kids. 

Hurricane Stan: (October 2005) Guatemala

Torrential rains caused deadly mudslides around Lake Atitlan in the department of Solola, which killed at least 600 people and displaced thousands in the traditional Mayan communities of this area. Plenty provided $8,700 for emergency and longer term food relief, which was coordinated through Plenty’s Central American Food Security program partner Asociacion De Desarollo Integral Belen (ADIBE) and their soy foods processing facility, which is located near the affected area.

Tsunami: (December 2004) India and Sri Lanka

On December 26, 2004, a devastating tsunami struck 1,356 miles of Indian coastline, destroying or seriously damaging 883 villages and affecting 1.2 million people. Over 10,000 people died in mainland India. We were asked by a trusted colleague working in India to support  a project to assist pregnant women and children. $2,870 was utilized for playgrounds for children in two villages (Chinoor and Velangiriyan Pettai), as a way to help them in their trauma recovery. The remaining $5,577 supported a project to provide pre- and post-natal care, nutritional food and vitamin supplements, vaccinations, psychological counseling, and special needs assistance to 276 pregnant women and 391 nursing mothers living in 25 villages that were devastated by the tsunami.

Hurricane Iris: (October 2001) Belize

This category 5 hurricane swept through southern Belize in October 2001, destroying homes, crops, and rainforest. Plenty Belize staff and volunteers set up outdoor emergency kitchens in 5 villages, where residents and the Plenty crew produced and distributed over 1000 lbs. of high protein dry cereal and drink mixes and coordinated other aid delivery in the area. Funds raised also purchased tools and seeds to enable 275 farming families to begin replanting. We assisted our longterm friends the Toledo Cacao Growers Association to  set up 4 village tree nurseries with drip irrigation by solar water pumps. About $17,000 was raised for these efforts from individuals and small grants.

Hurricane Mitch: (November 1999) Nicaragua

Plenty raised $5,726 through individuals and two small grants for Hurricane Mitch relief. Plenty built 2 houses and repaired three others, installed two neighborhood water wells, and supported a local woman’s group MUPROVI (Women Producing for Life) in the town of San Juan de Limay, by donating food and supplies for their temporary Olla Comunal (community kitchen). The community kitchen served approximately 80 kids one meal a day, 5 or 6 days a week for several months. Two Plenty representatives drove a load of medical supplies and house wares from Texas to Nicaragua, and donated their four wheel drive Toyota truck to help move supplies to families who lost homes and more in the hurricane. They also worked with MUPROVI to replant trees and re-establish vegetable gardens in the year following Mitch.

Guatemalan earthquake: (February 1976)

Two years after Plenty’s founding, we began our international work by responding to a massive earthquake that struck the Guatemalan highlands, killing over 23,000 people. Early relief efforts involved volunteer carpenter crews from the Farm Community who began rebuilding the town of San Andreas Itzapa and outlying rural communities. Deep underlying conditions of poverty and social inequality were revealed through this work, and seeing an opportunity to provide longer term assistance, the Farm Community, through Plenty sent more volunteers with health care, farming, communication and related skills. Initial relief efforts evolved into a multi-year program involving hundreds of volunteers, partly funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). 1200 homes, 12 schools and several clinics were rebuilt, a radio station established, agriculture and nutrition projects, health care training, and a free clinic provided services, and orphaned and malnourished children were cared for by Plenty volunteers.

adobe rubble 2
The earthquake in Guatemala killed 23,000 people and left a million homeless.


Itzapa camp crew portrait2
Plenty Guatemala volunteer camp, 1977.

Tornadoes in southern US: (1975-76)

In Plenty’s earliest years, we helped our neighbors in times of need, responding to local disasters by collecting and transporting truckloads of food, blankets, and clothing from Plenty headquarters at the Farm Community in middle Tennessee to tornado and flood victims in Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee.

Books To Kids



Since 2006 Books To Kids volunteers have distributed free, quality books to disadvantaged children in Louisiana and Tennessee.

As of January 2021 well over 300,000 books have been provided to children through schools, families, community centers and libraries!

Books To Kids seeks to help children cope with stressful life circumstances and ultimately, to increase their academic success by promoting literacy and a love of reading.  With these skills, children are better equipped to make informed life choices. The program focuses on children up to age 11, when a child’s academic foundation can have its most powerful effect on both the child and their family.

Books To Kids was started by Nashville, Tennessee resident Jim Selin, who had assisted Plenty in relief efforts after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. Jim saw first hand the devastation experienced by families in New Orleans and began to give out books to help children move beyond the trauma they experienced.

Over 7000 kids are served annually by Books To Kids, most of whom live below the federal poverty level. Poverty and early stress not only impacts a child’s day-to-day life, but also the choices and opportunities she or he has to create future happiness and success. In short we strive to reach those in greatest need, and focus onschools where all the children qualify for thefree lunch program.

In recent years BTK has expanded, providing books to other Plenty partners to distribute including Plenty Belize in Central America and at Pine Ridge Oglala Sioux Territory in So. Dakota.

Research has demonstrated the correlation between the number of books in a child’s home and their academic success. That is why the majority of Books To Kids books, while distributed in schools, are destined for students’ homes, to be shared with family and friends.

After Hurricane Sandy blasted coastal New York and New Jersey, Books To Kids distributed books in neighborhoods that had been hit.














How it works:

Book acquisition operates year round. Books are chosen utilizing guidelines regarding illustrations, language, and content.  Volunteers help with acquisition, distribution and related tasks. Volunteers:

  • Acquire quality books from libraries, families, thrift and used book stores, yard sales, and other sources.
  • Process, box and label books for distribution.
  • Transport the books to schools and community centers, which distribute the free reading materials directly to children.

For most of BTK’s history, three to four book distribution trips took place annually to the Gulf coast area and in Middle Tennessee. Due to Covid-19 travel restrictions in 2020-21, books are currently being shipped by mail.

Current Gulf Coast distribution sites include:
  • Boothville-Venice Elementary School, LA (our oldest site)
  • Mildred Osborne Elementary School, New Orleans (part of the Arise Academy system)
  • Point Aux Chenes Community Center, LA
  • The Lower Ninth Ward Literacy project, New Orleans
  • Families of Isle de Jean Charles, LA (14 years)
  • Abney Elementary School, Slidell LA (one of our success stories! Now “graduated” from BTK and connected with “Books a Million”)
  • Brock Elementary School, Slidell LA
  • Orleans Parish Juvenile Justice Center, LA
  • So. Plaquemine Elementary School, LA
  • Mardi Gras Chewbaccus parade (New Orleans) and Mona Lisa Moon Pie parade in October (Slidell)
  • Special events with the Lower Ninth Ward Literacy Project
  • Dat School (near Upper 9thWard) gets books into the neighborhood
  • Community Works afterschool program (provides enrichment activities at several schools in Orleans Parish)
Kids living on Isle de Jean Charles, an island off the coast of Louisiana that is gradually eroding into the Gulf of Mexico, examine their new books.

Current Middle Tennessee sites include Highland Park Elementary School in Columbia and the Kids To The Country program in Summertown. BTK also provides books to “Book ‘Em” another nonprofit partner in Nashville TN.

Volunteers in Tennessee and New Orleans keep building new relationships with school principals, community center directors, and other children’s programs that suggest additional sites where books are needed and will be distributed.

BTK also helps facilitate the placement of Little Free Libraries on the Gulf coast and north Nashville and supplies books for them.

Taking into account all expenses of acquisition, transportation and distribution, each book is provided to a child at a cost of approximately 50 cents.

Books were given away during the Literacy Parade in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans in May, 2013.
Maria Prout, Principal of Boothville-Venice Elementary School:

”When Jim brings books we organize them and set them out on a table in the library with a sign that says “Free Books from Mr. Jim”. We encourage the teachers to take their classes to see the books.

The children are then able to take home books they select. Since we’ve been able to build up our school library, we wanted to give the kids the opportunity to actually take books home.

The teachers work with the kids on how to organize their home libraries according to genre, author. Sometimes a student will bring back one of the books that they particularly liked to offer them to other kids or ask their teacher to read it to the class.

I would like to see more books from Plenty because our big push right now is literacy. The more we can get books into the hands of the parents that they can read to their kids and the more we can get books into the hands of the kids, the better our community is going to be.”

Dawn LaFonte, Principal:

”Thank you so much for the visit and the books you graciously brought to Pointe aux Chene and Oaklawn Jr. High. The students were delighted to have them. We frequently have visits at Oaklawn Jr. High by students who are mentally and physically impaired.

The law states that they must be included on a regular school campus, which delights me. However, we frequently don’t have materials on their level.

Your last drop of books to me had several wonderful Indian stories on their level. We shared them in the library and they were so excited!

The regular students in the library were excited to read to the challenged students as well. That was a blessing I did not think I would see!

Thank you for making such an important difference in the lives of our students. It means so much!”

Our greatest need is to add more volunteers and funding to continue and grow Books To Kids. Your donations and support are greatly appreciated!

For more information: http://www.facebook.com/bookstokids or email info@plenty.org 

Super Typhoon Haiyan Relief Efforts

Super Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines with massive force. Relief efforts are needed on a massive, long-term scale. Plenty is being asked to help the village of Alta Vista on the island of Leyte, which is home to about 1,500 people. Every house in the area lost their roof and/or sustained other damage. Alta Vista Elementary School, with 280 students and the preschool/daycare with 45 students, lost its roof, desks, books and supplies. Other schools in the area are in similar shape and need help.


We will aid as many schools as we can, depending upon the amount of donations we receive.

This is an opportunity to help in a very specific and personal way to help this community get back on their feet!

Gulf Coast Recovery

In February we started installing the library and computer lab in the Community Center of the local Pointe au Chien Indian Tribe. Thanks to the Philip R. Jonsson Foundation for funding this project and Tulane University student volunteers Hannah Dean and Margot Habets for their assistance. Tribal members Theresa and Donald Dardar were on hand to help out.

This past December Plenty volunteer Elaine Langley once again organized a Bayou Christmas gift-giving program for about 60 children of Isle de Jean Charles and Pointe-aux-Chenes on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana. Thanks to Angela Fox, Jeff Becker, Darlene Marks and Carol Stachurski for helping again.

Aid provided to Alta Vista School, the Philippines

Thanks to everyone who donated to help the village school at Alta Vista, which was hit hard by Typhoon Haiyan.  The superstorm struck the Philippines on November 8, 2013, killing more than 6,000 people and destroying the homes of 15 million more.

At the Alta Vista village school all school papers were lost to water damage in the typhoon and the students needed writing tablets and notebooks for lessons. Your donations via Plenty bought school supplies for the 285 children and 48 kids at the day care.  Each student received a notebook and 2 writing tablets, a pen or pencil, an eraser and a pencil sharpener. In total 285 notebooks, 530 notepads, 165 pencils, 120 pens, 165 erasers, 165 sharpeners, plus 50 boxes of crayons and 50 boxes of colored chalk for the daycare were provided. School is over at the end of March, and our friends there told us “this elementary is now set”. Small gestures mean a lot. Thanks for your help.


The Gulf Coast Recovery Program

Sixteen Biloxi-Chitimacha families flooded by Hurricane Isaac in August received replacement beds and mattresses, thanks to funding provided by the Philip R. Jonsson Foundation and individual Plenty donors.

Over 100 families from 3 Louisiana bayou tribal communities benefitted over the Christmas holiday from toys, books, and grocery cards, thanks to Plenty volunteer Elaine Langley and her network of friends and Plenty supporters, and new partner, The Mothers Project.

Gulf Coast Recovery

Since hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast at the end of August in 2005, the quarter- mile wide Isle de Jean Charles, which lies just southwest of New Orleans three feet above sea level has been flooded by hurricanes Rita (2005), Gustav (2008), Ike (2008), and now Isaac as well as tropical storm Lee in 2011. On top of these disasters the BP oil rig explosion in 2010, coupled with the careless and massive application of Corexit to try and break up and disperse the oil has basically shut down the shrimp and oyster harvests that the native Biloxi- Chitimaca-Choctaw people rely on for food and income. Plenty is raising funds to help the families like Hilton Chaisson’s who lost everything in the flooding from Isaac. One hundred and seventy-five people live on the island including about 22 children. For most of the families, their homes represent all they have and the island culture is all they have ever known.

Gulf Coast Recovery

by Elaine Langley

In 2012 we’ll continue our material support for struggling families in Louisiana, a holiday gift and food drive, as well as reconstruction assistance, including the completion of a Community Center for the native Biloxi-Chitimacha people.

Thanks once again to the Philip R. Jonsson Foundation.

On January 7th Malcolm John “Mac” Rebennack, Jr. (Dr. John), the 5-time Grammy Award winning Louisiana musician, along with some of his family members and friends, joined Calvin and I to meet with members of the Biloxi Chitimacha tribes of Pointe aux Chenes and Isle de Jean Charles on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana. We met in Pointe Aux Chenes for introductions and a tribal council.

The discussion centered around the state of the Gulf following the BP oil disaster, and the toxic corexit that had been sprayed to sink the oil, thus poisoning the water, air, land, wild life and people.

Dr John is calling for a Gulf Healing Ceremony in April to support the recovery of this distressed region, while drawing increased attention to the the plight of the people who have lived here for generations.

We traveled to Isle de Jean Charles, an island that is sinking and shrinking due to the many years of exploitation by the oil companies. We met with Chris Brunet who has lived there all his life and who shared his stories of the island from past to present. Wyn Billiot also shared tales of his 86 plus years living on the island.

The entire day was filmed by a crew whose footage will be used in a documentary called “Can’t Stop the Water” that brings attention to the native people of Isle de Jean Charles and the threats to their ancestral home and culture.