STATEMENT ARTS- "The World Art Project"

The World Art Project blog is a forum dedicated to helping Katrina Victims share the experience and journey of a group of Professional Actors, Singers and Performers who traveled to the Gulf Coast to help uplift the spirits of those surviors. Our hope is to provide insight, knowledge and offer way for readers to get involved and help in forms of Donations, support or expression of opinions and feelings.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Day 1....

So today (Wednesday) we began the day by heading over to the Morrell Foundation's feeding tent which was the same place we were going to sing later on. It was the first time we able to see some of the devastation by daylight. There are not enough words to describe what we saw between our motel, Key West Inn, and the feeding tent and that was just the beginning. All along the road near us, we're able to see buildings with their roofs caved in or windows blown out with only half of a wall left. But that is not the worst of what we would see today.

As we turned onto the road near the beach, we passed lot after lot where all that was left of the homes were the three concrete front steps and a small plywood sign with the address spray-painted on it. Later on we learned that these folks' homes had been pushed by the waves and wind further inland so that many of the lots blocks behind them had 4 and 5 houses that had landed there. Those poor people now have to clear all those additional houses and debris from where their homes used to be.

It was a beautifully sunny day as we drove into the beach front area where the Morrell Foundation has their volunteer housing and feeding tents/building. This is an amazing operation. Volunteers who come in from around the country need a place to stay and somewhere to eat. Since there are few restaurants and even fewer places to stay this organization has built a building with loads of rooms with cots. There are not as many volunteers coming down as 3 months ago and yet the need is still great. The few volunteers who are still coming are a dedicated and wonderfully giving group of people. They are here to help clear out these homes, many of which have not even been touched yet. Refrigerators have remained exactly where they landed filled with rotting food. These incredible people empty all the debris out of these homes and then start bleaching/cleaning in hopes of making the structures somewhat inhabitable. This is difficult work both physically and emotionally.

We missed their breakfast time but their generosity is such that Tom, who runs the kitchen, went back into the kitchen and made us pancakes. Amazing pancakes at that!

After breakfast, we were joined by Margaret from Disaster Corps, an organization that was started by a woman called Stephanie Spencer who lost everything in Hurricane Floyd. These are some of those incredible volunteers I described earlier. Margaret gave us a guided tour through some of the worst hit areas of Bay St. Louis and Waveland. Large old trees that look like snapped matchsticks are everywhere. Rooftop after rooftop smashed into the ground. Homes that don't resemble anything like a home but a pile of sticks, like a popsicle house gone awry. Every time we saw another devastating sight I had the impulse to want to photograph it in order to document this insanity. After a bit of time, I felt guilty. I felt like we were treating this disaster like a tourist event...riding through the area on our big blue bus, snapping photos. It seemed so wrong. Houses sitting in canals, chimneys smashed to bits, a pink bathroom sink, tub and toilet strewn about a property...wrong to take pictures and yet wrong not to. People outside of here need to know how awful this still is.

When I was trying to raise awareness for this trip, I contacted everyone I could think of. One major corporation with which I had some ties told me that they were "All Katrina'd out.". I'm sure these folks here are "all Katrina'd out" but still they go on.

After the tour we had a bit of down time. The next thing I knew, we were standing in the liquor store next door to the hotel, singing "Frosty". It seems that the folks in there seemed awfully down so we thought we'd cheer them up. Little did we know who we would meet but a wonderful local woman called Connie. She joined in with us and stayed and chatted with us. She is amazing. An older woman who informed us that she had just gotten electricity into her FEMA trailer the day before!!! Crazy! This is December. Well Connie was amazing. She asked where we were parking our bus at night and offered to let us pull up next her trailer if we needed to. She then took our schedule of performances and promised to try to join us.

We had another rehearsal in the afternoon and then gathered for our first performance. We had no idea what was going to happen next. We arrived at the Morrell Foundation tent and there were very few folks there. We were afraid that we wouldn't have much of an audience and a bit worried about how this was all going to go. We try to gather folks and before we knew it, we had a small crowd of about 40 or 50.

What happened next is part of the miracles of this trip...Stay tuned!

Sue Berch


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