We Need to Help the Gulf Region Today So They’re Not Forgotten Tomorrow by Laura Snowden
On the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I want to call attention to the responsibility our country has to the people living along the Gulf Coast, especially now with the BP oil spill that has oiled beaches, marshlands, and fisheries.
Hundreds of high school and college students are joining me in a letter-writing campaign called “Dear America” to remind fellow Americans that thousands of people in the Gulf region still need help rebuilding their homes and that the long term effect from the nearly 5 million barrels of oil dumping into the ocean will be catastrophic.
Five years after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, more than 6,000 residents are still living in temporary housing and cannot afford to rebuild. Families, still waiting to rebuild their lives, are forced to raise their children in overcrowded homes of their relatives, attics, FEMA trailers, and even garages. Turn down any side street into the residential neighborhoods of Chalmette, Louisiana or the Lower Ninth Ward and foundations sit empty, broken up only occasionally by a rebuilt home or a trailer. Each concrete slab and each empty home are reminders to the world that families are still in need.
Just as the road to recovery was beginning to look brighter, Louisiana was once again hit hardest by the oil spill. While the state is still assessing the harm caused to marine life, experts worry that the oil may accelerate the destruction of the wetlands. What’s clear though is that businesses and workers have suffered millions of dollars in losses, and that the state is in need of long term recovery plans.
Residents, already suffering from high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder from Katrina, are also at an increased risk for future mental health problems. Overall mental health levels in Gulf Coast fishing communities are low and anxiety levels are at an all time high as a result of uncertain financial and future predictability.
These are the stories we students will be sharing during our “Dear America” campaign. Our letters will soon reach every media outlet in the U.S. to raise awareness and support for the families of the Gulf Coast. When you read our letters, you’ll see how everyone can work together to help move families back into their homes, clean up our beaches, and help those who have lost their jobs.
As citizens of this country, a nation that always steps in during humanitarian crises abroad, we must reach out to our fellow Americans today and make sure they’re not forgotten tomorrow.
Laura Snowden is a sophomore at Santa Clara University and co-founder of Shirts Across America, a nonprofit organization that she created while in high school to help rebuild homes in the Gulf region after Hurricane Katrina.
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