Article from Church World Service:
NEW YORK – As the country continues to question to what degree race and class were reflected in slow federal response to Katrina’s desperate and dying victims in New Orleans, the Executive Director of humanitarian agency Church World Service claims race and poverty both were factors, decries blaming of the victims, and says poverty and class must be considered in "meaningful long-range recovery."
Appearing on MSNBC's "Countdown" with Keith Olbermann on Sunday (Sept 11), humanitarian agency Church World Service Executive Director Rev. John L. McCullough stated, "No doubt race is an important factor in the Gulf Coast . . . but class is also a critical factor.
"As we looked at Katrina," McCullough said, "we were concerned about people of color," but McCullough said the debate now should be focused "more broadly on poverty and class."
McCullough, an African American, said New Orleanian survivors were "people victimized by the authorities" who had failed to "use the resources at their disposal."
He said the way governmental responses have unfolded "give us an opportunity to see whether the government acts as a safety net," which McCullough said should be the case but didn’t happen quickly enough with Katrina.
McCullough said, however, that the disaster has "reopened to discussion the issues of race and poverty in a positive way. This should help us as Americans to look at the responsibility of one for the other," he said, and "our expectations of government."
Today, McCullough says, "It's absolutely necessary that we as a nation pay attention to the issues of class, of poverty, in how we now turn to the long-term recovery of the Gulf Coast region and Katrina’s survivors.
"The way we assist Katrina’s most vulnerable survivors in rebuilding their lives over the long haul will be a litmus test--and can be a model--of how we must proceed as a nation in closing the gaping divide in this country.
"The world is watching us," he said. McCullough visited Louisiana days after Katrina struck and after the flooding of New Orleans, performing early assessment for CWS's response and to rescue members of his own family who had been in New Orleans.
McCullough says CWS is focusing on long-term recovery for the Gulf Coast and now bringing the agency’s experience in international refugee resettlement to bear to assist those hurricane evacuees who want to or have resettled elsewhere, "to help make sure that these doubly traumatized citizens are not forgotten as a class."
CWS is the only agency responding to the Katrina disaster that has both an international and domestic emergency response unit and a refugee and resettlement unit.
Global CWS's expanded efforts for this unprecedented U.S. disaster include responding to meet immediate needs, organizing for long-term recovery at multiple faith community levels, and addressing assistance to relocated individuals across the country.
The agency’s particular focus is on long-term recovery assistance for vulnerable populations.
CWS Responders in Gulf Coast Coordinating Long-term Recovery Planning
Church World Service disaster responders are now in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas to support and help formulate long-term responses and assist in establishing new community-based long-term recovery organizations that will in turn provide local, hands-on support to survivors with unmet needs.
In Louisiana, as part of a five-person disaster response team, CWS’s Lura Cayton is coordinating a coalition of state ecumenical bodies and inviting smaller denominations to participate jointly in long-term recovery programs.
In Houston, Church World Service disaster responder Heriberto Martinez reports that CWS is collaborating with Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston in its Neighbors 2 Neighbors program to help newly arriving evacuees who will resettle in the Houston area.
Of the thousands of evacuees still in Houston’s Astrodome many are ill, elderly, or mentally ill--and many have been off medications since the hurricane and flooding of New Orleans.
Martinez is visiting volunteers and evacuees staying at the Astrodome to assist in responding to immediate needs and assess future needs.
He says a collaboration of responding interfaith groups conducted a training seminar in Houston with more than 75 ministers and lay leaders from various denominations, to help prepare them for working with people who will be living in temporary shelters in the area.
In the devastated Mississippi Gulf Coast area, Church World Service disaster responder Lesli Remaly reports that "a vibrant group has been set up," following meetings with area faith and state leaders to develop long-term recovery planning. CWS's Davis and Cheri Baer are focusing initially on the Meridian and Jackson areas. Agency responder Art Jackson is based in Columbus. Additional CWS responders are expected to be deployed.
CWS Associate Director for Emergency Response Linda Reed Brown says, "We expect to form as many as 25 new long-term recovery groups nationwide as a result of Katrina.
"We have strong established recovery groups in Florida who are assisting those in the Panhandle impacted by Katrina. And," she says, "some of our established recovery group network who are already working with Katrina survivors are also still assisting those in need from last year’s hurricane season."
With expertise in training care providers domestically and internationally to work with trauma victims, Church World Service is also focusing on supporting trauma care for Katrina's survivors. Brown says CWS will conduct its Interfaith Trauma Response Trainings for Katrina caregivers and will also
offer trauma care through its Spiritual and Emotional Care Response cadre of volunteer professional counselors. Both programs were developed after the September 11 disaster.
CWS domestic responders with high expertise in disaster emotional and spiritual care will also support development of a national strategy to provide appropriate trauma and psycho-social care in shelters and relocation communities, and for grueling public operations such as morgue and death notification.
Agency Raises Fundraising Campaign to $9.5 million, Anticipating Long-term Needs
Last week, CWS expanded its national Katrina fundraising goal to $9.5 million, with a view particularly toward long-term recovery for survivors who remain in the Gulf Region and for those who resettle.
To date, Church World Service has provided more than $300,000 in material assistance to affected areas, including 18,100 CWS Blankets; 14,335 "Gift of the Heart" Health Kits; 500 CWS "Gift of the Heart" Children’s Kits; and 1,000 "Gift of the Heart" School Kits. Shipments have arrived in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi. A shipment of UNICEF school and recreation materials is now being distributed in Meridian, Mississippi.
Contributions to support these efforts may be sent to:
Church World Service
Hurricane Katrina Response -- #6280
P.O. Box 968
Elkhart, IN 46515
Or call 800 297 1516, ext. 222. Or give online at www.churchworldservice.org.