In 2017 we are still debating and discussing Hurricane Katrina. There is no end to the stories, the movies, the documentaries, the political grandstanding. At the time of the historic flooding it served the media narrative to pit the Republican bogeyman of the day (Bush 43) against a poor and abandoned black population.
The same concern has not been extended to Americans suffering from similar tragedies. The victims of the recent historic flooding in larger Louisiana had the misfortune to be majority white and living under the Obama administration. That engendered a completely different narrative. While billions still pour into varying Katrina recovery funds to this day, government officials in LA have expressed frustration at the lack of federal response to this most recent tragedy.
However, Louisianans haven’t been sitting idly while waiting for help. At the time of the flooding, a community-led effort helmed by entrepreneur Rob Gaudet was formed to reach stranded victims through social media networks and word-of-mouth. The “Cajun Navy” gained quick support and volunteers used their own boats, trucks and tools to rescue anyone who was able to get out word of their need and location.
Since that time the Cajun Navy has officially been formed into the Cajun Relief Foundation
. Gaudet has shifted from rescue to recovery. Also a programmer, Guadet designed a crowd-funding platform that allows donors to directly supply the specific needs of struggling flood victim. He says he realized people don’t normally think about all the household items one loses in a natural disaster like the floods, and crowd-funding seemed to be the perfect vehicle to provide the very basic needs of those still fighting to put their lives back together. It is a unique combination of the original Cajun Navy mandate and the popular idea of crowd-funding.
We find cases from numerous sources, Facebook, non-profits, word of mouth, businesses who provide disaster services also refer us.
Once we have their information, we conduct a phone survey with an affected home owner.
Based on the needs, we assign a citizen ‘case worker’ who will go and physically vet the needs outlined in the survey. That person also meets any immediate needs for the individuals such as clothing, medical, transportation, food or housing. Those situations are almost always uncovered during the survey.. the really urgent needs we have been uncovering cause our entire team to engage and help.
The ‘case worker’ is also charged with collecting story information and photos of the needs. The case worker works with a ‘crowd relief campaign developer’ to craft a compelling campaign on behalf of the individuals or families who qualify for a crowd-funding campaign.
The Baton Rouge native says that their first client – an elderly woman named Mrs. Etta – has been without hot water for 6 months and has been living on MREs since the flood, and she’s not alone.
The people we’re helping are the most vulnerable. They have health problems such as cancer, some form of disability, single moms with no support system.. all over the place.
Mrs. Etta chats with a Cajun Relief case worker
Donors can navigate to the Crowd Relief page
and choose a monetary donation connected to specific items – a dishwasher, a coffee pot, a toaster, even towels and washclothes…the list goes on, all things most of us take for granted in our daily lives.
In a day and age when we are forced to endure the indignant cries of to many Americans who believe the government should be the first and foremost form of charity, it is refreshing to see private citizens not waiting for the slow wheels of bureaucracy to turn but taking their own fate into their hands and simply helping each other.
It is the very essence of the American spirit.