Saturday, October 14, 2006

Final Report from KatrinaGrace Team VIII

from Liz Beachum:

Wow! What an amazing week we've had! I can't believe we are home again! It has been a great experience working with the local Habitat for Humanity in East St Tammany Parish and also with Trinity Church in Covington who gave us a home away from home. Everyone was friendly and hospitable, and we've met some new friends.

We spent our last 2 work days installing laminate flooring at the house in Lacombe. They told us ahead of time that if we did not know a skill when we arrived, we would definitely go home having learned a new skill. Many of us learned to install laminate flooring for the first time. A few of the men went to another site in Lacombe to do some foundation work and also in Pearl River to hang insulation.

Someone asked me who qualifies for a Habititat home. Basically, they complete an application and attend an orientation meeting that is held twice a year. They must have a steady income. Since Habitat does "not give a hand out but a hand up", the prospective homeowner is required to complete 200 hours of "sweat equity". Sweat equity can be earned by working on a job site and/or working in a Habitat kitchen to provide meals for the volunteers. After they complete the first 50 hours, the process for building a house begins. Then after they've completed 100-150 hours, they can move in when the house is completed. They are also given a 20-year interest free loan.

Early Thursday evening we drove down to the Lower 9th Ward to see some of the devastation from Katrina. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. What once used to be vibrant neighborhoods, with kids playing outside and riding bikes up and down the streets, have been abandoned to a great extent (understatement).

We saw many houses and businesses that were uninhabitable. Some houses had been swept off their foundations and were no where in sight. Some of the empty parking lots have been converted into FEMA trailer parks. We met a man named Keith who was living in a FEMA trailer parked next to his house. He was so happy to see us and he gladly shared his story with us. Most of his neighbors live elsewhere, and sadly some have drowned. He said the flood waters rose
2-stories high. He lived in a 1-story house. Thankfully, he was able to stay with his brother down the street who lived in a 3-story house. At the end of our visit with him, we joined hands in a circle and prayed with him. He prayed too and, wow, can he pray! As we listened to his story, we were hoping to be an encouragement to him. Ironically, he was an inspiration and an encouragement to us. ln spite of his great loss, he had great faith, a positive attitude and a hopeful outlook on the future. As we drove out of the city to go back "home", the van was very quiet. No one was talking. Everyone was reflecting on what they had seen and heard. The need is truly great here.

We had a great team of 14 volunteers that came with us. Most attend Grace Community Church but we were delighted that some folks from 3 other churches came with us, including members from Calvary Community, Living Hope Presbyterian, and Cedar Ridge Community Church. Everyone came ready to work, willing to be flexible, and eager to make a difference. We are the 8th team from Grace that went down to the Gulf Coast region to help with the Katrina recovery. More teams are preparing to go down in the months to come. The KatrinaGrace web site is an excellent resource for all the great work that is being done by Grace Community.

Thank you all for your prayers this week. Everyone stayed healthy and safe this week. Please continue to pray for us as we return to our own reality.



I will be uploading more pics in the days and weeks to come here.

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