Face to Face is remarkable.
You probably receive hundreds of letters about Face to Face With Katrina Survivors by Dr. Lemuel Moye. I just finished reading it and felt compelled to write about the pleasure of having experience the first responder's world through Dr. Moye's eyes. It was an incredible story that had me crying in the first 20 pages. The book had heartbreak, hope, and inspiration in Dr. Moye's experiences.
I had just returned from my 3rd trip to New Orleans to work on weeklong volunteer hurricane home rebuilds with Rebuilding Together. I have been a volunteer with this non-profit for 17 years, remodeling homes of low-income, elderly, and disabled homeowners so they can stay safe, warm, dry in their own homes. I lost my home in 1991 to the Oakland Hills Firestorm in California, and was a FEMA recipient. The experience left me with a need to help others in a rebuilding capacity and Rebuilding Together was the perfect fit to do so. There were many uncertainties in going to the Gulf Coast to volunteer but once there, it felt like I was meant to be there to help.
We were one of many, many volunteer groups to give up our vacations to help with the rebuilding - some are faith-based, and RT is not but that did not prevent us from partnering with faith-based groups to be able to do more than individual groups alone could do. I felt the need particularly to go and work in New Orleans because I knew the executive director of the RT affiliate there; he had lost his own home in the floods of Katrina, most of his board and volunteer base had been evacuated out of the city, and yet he was still trying to organize rebuilding projects which now had an emergency emphasis on helping hurricane victims. Many of our organization's affiliates made a strong push to our national leadership that we needed to make a bold statement to help hurricane victims because it was part of our mission statement to do this type of work and that many of us were ready to mobilize anytime the call came to go help. The victims hit hardest by the hurricanes are the very people RT volunteer to help anyway - the low-income, elderly, and disabled homeowners.
Rebuilding Together has pledged to rebuild 1,000 hurricane-damage homes in the Gulf Coast and we are close to having finished 200 homes. This may take 10-15 years to do but we are determined to stay the course until we reach our goal. Volunteers from affiliates across the U.S. come together to make it happen because we all feel a personal need to help; this is the committed work we do in our own communities so we have the expertise and organizational skills for this type of work and we do this type of work on far smaller budgets than other non-profits that raised funds hand over fist post-hurricane (they have also completed far fewer projects). We realized that it takes waves of volunteers to complete a home because each of us is only there for a week of work, but many of us have returned multiple times because of the need and because we get so much intrinsic happiness out of the projects than even the homeowners do.
Dr. Moye's book was a strong reminder of the need for this country's people to pull together to help its most vulnerable population remake their lives because enough help may never come from the government. It's a story that Dr. Moye told with incredible sensitivity and it is a book I will encourage friends I met on these projects to read.
Thank You for publishing such an inspiratinal story.