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The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Report from Mississippi - from my daughter

MISSISSIPPI MISSION TRIP
By Leigh Lindsay
May 31,2006

As I looked out the window from the airplane as we approached the New Orleans Airport, I marveled at how many people had swimming pools in their backyards. As we got closer I realized the bright blue I was seeing was not pools but tarps covering as yet un-repaired roofs damaged by Hurricane Katrina nine months ago.

I was on my way to spend a week at Camp Coast Care in Long Beach, Mississippi doing whatever volunteer work was asked of me. I was joined by eleven other members of Trinity Episcopal Church, New Haven. Since the end of August 2005 when the hurricane hit I had heard many reports of the damage and recovery efforts in the area but I was still unprepared for the extent of the damage still visible and the work that needed to be done,

The clean-up part had largely been completed, that is roads were clear, tree limbs were neatly stacked or already removed, and tarps were tidily fastened to the roofs. But what I wasn’t prepared for were the empty concrete slabs where a home once stood, or the abandoned shopping center with just a sign hanging crookedly. Trailers were parked in front of many homes which signaled the interiors were still uninhabitable. Many homes that were not actually flooded still had extensive water damage due to the wind damage of the roof. Apparently the waiting time for a new roof is still quite lengthy.

Our group spent time doing a variety of jobs: hanging sheet rock including mudding and sanding, some electrical work, caulking, painting; and removing insulation, wiring, damaged paneling, and seemingly millions of nails from wall studs. Other jobs included rebuilding a fence and building 96 partitions to be used in a new camp to house youth volunteers this summer.

The work was sometimes physically difficult and always hot and sweaty. But these minor inconveniences paled in comparison to the struggles the people we met had been living with for nine months. We met a young couple who had only been in their new house for 2 weeks before the storm hit and blew the roof off their house. We helped an older couple re-build their long time home which housed them and their extensive collections. And we helped a lively widow who was filling her spare time volunteering for the same organization we were.

In addition to helping people in the Gulf Coast area of Mississippi our group formed strong bonds of friendship and cohesion. We felt connected to each other and to this part of the world in a way that I did not expect. The joint Lutheran /Episcopal relief efforts of Camp Coast Care expect to needed in the Long Beach area for 5-7 years. I was deeply impressed by their efforts and the efforts of the volunteers we met from other parts of the country who came to put their faith into action and to be the Good Neighbor.

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