On October 2nd, my husband Calvin and I from Plenty International made our second relief run to Pointe Au Chenes, an area devastated by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. Assisted by Gordon Soderberg from BioLiberty Relief, two truckloads of bleach, contractor bags, industrial paper towels, and other supplies were delivered to the Biloxi Chitimacha tribe. A generous donation by Dr. Dave Winek of Franklin, Tennessee made this critical relief mission possible.
We volunteers returned to visit the families in Pointe Au Chenes we had met during the first relief trip. Once again we met with Teresa Dardar, a native Biloxi Chitimacha who was the neighborhood caretaker. Many families had made good progress cleaning swamp muck out of their houses, but much remained to be done. We are planning to assist in the transition to Phase II, which involves rebuilding structures, painting, and general repair. Phase III will replace destroyed household and personal items.
Teresa introduced us to a couple named Babae and Bernice Billot. Cleaning supplies and personal toiletries donated by the Red Cross remained stacked on a pallet in their basement. Because phone service had not been restored, it had been difficult to notify households of the arrival of the supplies. Even after the word went out, there was no one to distribute the supplies. We were excited to have the opportunity to refill our vehicles and distribute this material to the needy families of this devastated area. We visited a middle-aged woman named Margaret Verdin, who clutched a wooden cane for balance as she stared at her personal and household items lying in a large trash heap outside the remains of her home. Now she lived with her daughter in another area, waiting for her sons to help her reconstruct her house. A brief tour of her small house made us realize that this would be a dubious undertaking.
Health problems complicated Margaret’s poignant story. An accident a year ago required replacement of her left hip, which now contained a metal plate. The storm destroyed her hospital bed, and without it she was unable to get herself up in the morning, making her totally dependent on her family. I told her I would do what I could to find her a hospital bed. She was also diabetic and needed a glucose monitor in order to check her blood sugar. Miraculously I had one in my bag to give her that had been donated by United Peace Relief.
We also visited Isle de Jean Charles, also known as The Island. This area is especially vulnerable to the strong hurricane winds and floodwaters. Before expanded commerce depleted the wetlands and global warming caused heavier storms, people made a comfortable lifestyle through fishing and gardening. After the double storm hit and the waters receded, a barren land covered by thick mud remained. Trees, stripped of their leaves, were now laden with swamp grass. Houses lay in uninhabitable ruins, and families occupied other structures that had suffered heavy damage. Wooden walkways leading over small bodies of water to houses were in shambles.
Despite the barren landscape and the ruin left by Hurricane Gustav and Ike, the spirit of this tribal community remained undiminished. Not one person complained, and all smiled in appreciation of our help. Their ancestors have called this Island home for generations, and its vulnerability to intense weather has not extinguished their deep love and attachment to it. For most of them, rebuilding is the only option.
Registered Nurse, Plenty International