We apologize that it’s taken some time to get an update posted…CAN-Do is on the ground across Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. We continue to network with fellow aid groups whom share our goal of of revitalizing these crippled communities. In addition we seek to bring important issues to the attention of the media.

In the past I have grown frustrated with the media for not reporting on the people here. I am still shocked at the lack of media coverage that is long over due. Residents we talk to (especially in Mississippi) are outraged that the media has stopped reporting. Not only is there very little coverage of Mississippi in general, but the media continues to focus on New Orleans. Not only is this irresponsible reporting- the media is now perpetuating this false sense of security that things are okay in other regions of the gulf. Things are far from OK here! The aftermath of this disaster doesn’t end at the end of Bourbon Street…Although, we see Anderson Cooper quite a bit doing his live shot from Bourbon St. I think (within his limitations) he is doing the best he can reporting on the chaos. I just hope he keeps it up.

We have just returned from an area of S. Louisiana that is still waiting for aid to reach them ten weeks later. How is this possible? How is it possible that Plaqueimins Parish, (a rural county of 26,000), only one hour south of Louisiana is still battling for ice and water? They still do not have electricity, sewage, water, shelter, and the basics. They are no better now than days after Katrina.

The sad thing is this is just one example of thousands of cases that are being overlooked.


We ended up in the rural S. Louisiana parish quite by accident:

Our networking led us to a man by the name of John from “American Friends Committee Association” that is based out of Philadelphia. They informed us of an area southeast of New Orleans on Rt. 23, “Plaquemines Parish”. Following their lead we ended up in Buras on Highway 11. This was a highly restricted area with many checkpoints. We drove down Highway 11, again shocked by the level of destruction.

Each time we travel south the ante is upped: this was yet another area completely flattened by Hurricane Katrina and later, Rita. There is nothing left. Only standing trees and very few frames of houses are left. The main difference between this area and others that we had seen is that there was no sign of relief workers in the area. Not one sign of a distribution center or military presence. Even though we had to go through several checkpoints to get to this area, there was no sign of an effort to help these survivors. Dead cows on the side of the road, dead horses hanging from trees, sign of life was scarce. The first people we saw we pulled over to ask them if we could help them.

Byron and Kelly Marinovich lived on Highway 11 since their teens. These two along with the rest of the parish have lost every bit of history that had been passed down to them by their families. They had built up a small restaurant/bar business called “The Black Velvet”. They also pointed out a little shop across the street next to their home, or what was left of it. We looked politely, but I could see no sign of a dwelling. The home itself had been turned from west to north and moved 20 feet back from its foundation. The bar and restaurant was completely flattened, basically there was nothing left of their property that they could salvage. Something was a little different about this story than the rest of the survivors applying for a FEMA trailer. Byron and Kelly had applied for a trailer three days after Katrina had hit. It was seven weeks later when they received a letter from FEMA informing them that they had been rejected for any assistance and were not qualified for a trailer.

By looking around you could imagine that we were as surprised as they were that “they did not have enough damage” or were rejected by FEMA for any assistance. This particular story has baffled us the most. Byron and Kelly are quite unassuming and would like to see just someone to come down to their area with some relief. There were no state, local, federal, or government agencies in sight or anyone well else helping with any basic needs. Byron told us “I would like to see anything come down here, ice, food, water. We still have no electricity or running water, we are sleeping in our tent, we had to steal a port-o-potty, and there is no way for us to take a shower! If anything if you can’t help us than help our neighbors. We are all in the same boat and have nothing left. We’re not angry just devastated at our loss and the lack of help from any government or relief effort.”

On a personal note, we were extremely moved by Byron and Kelly’s story. They are one of the sweetest couples that we have met. They have lost absolutely everything! They were four months away of paying all of their mortgages for their businesses off. They are trying desperately filtering through their rubble to salvage what is left. After such a passage of time they were certain that aid had simply passed them by- we were glad to prove them wrong!

Byron and Kelly have the only property with a pile of rubble at the end of their property that they themselves have started by hand. It took them 10 days to clear their “slab” with only a wheel barrel, a shovel and a rake. A quote that Byron left us when we asked what the immediate needs that we could bring to him and his wife besides ice and water, “I’ll take anything from tampons to dynamite, we have nothing, anything for me or my neighbors!”

On Nov 8th we arrive in Plaqueamines Parish, to distribute our donations. We met Kelly and Byron at their former residence to set up our makeshift distribution site in Buras. The day was filled with locals taking their personal needs. Kelly told us “you can tell the ones who have lost everything because they will only take what they truly need.

It has been three weeks since we were last here and the relief efforts have slowly filtered in, or so they did for about two weeks. The day after our first delivery we rang Byron and Kelly up to see how the distributing was going. Much to everyone’s dismay, they informed us that the government pulled out all of their ice and water trucks, which were supplied to the area only two weeks prior. The governor had informed the parish that the relief efforts were no longer necessary!

So we, along with Byron and Kelly, have decided to take matters into our hands and do whatever is in our power to help this parish. We are begining to help Byron and Kelly’s get their business back up and running. With our new distribution site we have been able to provide to the locals trying to move back into their community. Buras still does not have electricity, running water, sewage, and now no form of relief efforts.

After successfully setting up our distribution site on Byron and Kelly’s property we were told of an area just south of Buras… Venice Louisiana. This area is a fishing community at the southern tip of Louisiana, which had also been “overlooked”. This heavily populated community made up of Vietnamese fisherman was completely destroyed as well and also in desperate need. Because there is no shelter for the workers in the area, fishermen are forced to sleep in cars and destroyed boats. We even found people sleeping in refrigerators… After speaking with the workers we were given permission by the dock master to go ahead and set up two small tent village’s in a destroyed fishing warehouse that would serve as our shelter. We were told that we would increase their work force by doing so because more fishermen would have a place to sleep rather than being subjected to the harsh conditions they were currently living in. We immediately, assembled a crew and with the help of our good friends over at North Face set up two tent shelters as well as a distribution. Keep in mind the docks in Venice pull in over 400 million dollars a year in fishing…

CAN-DO would like to express their gratitude, once again, to North Face’s generous donations. We will continue distributing warm jackets, tents, fleeces, boots, sleeping bags, hats etc.until the money and supplies run out.

This Week (Nov 14th) the temperature has dropped below 30 degrees…keep in mind people are sleeping in tents. The elderly, children, the disabled… and because the weather has gotten so cold it has forced people back into there condemned, mold ridden homes. These are homes without roofs covered in plastic, windows blown out and the stench from the mold that has been growing inside for the past 10 weeks is overwhelming, with no toilet, shower or laundry facility…Unfortunately, there is NO other alternative. This is the United States of America! Why are thousands of people are living like this?! Why the hell won’t the media report on it? I am writing this blog from a room in a small building in East Biloxi with one small window blown out…I am from Boston and know what cold weather feels like…This is cold. But the people sleeping on the ground, in tents, or in a destroyed house or building, or in a destroyed boat with no electricity, or water, or heat because they lost everything…Physically and mentally, these people cannot survive like this and should not have to. Shame on the media for turning their backs, shame on the politicians that are thinking with their wallets and not hearts, shame on the people who were here days after soliciting money for their organizations and have now vanished and shame on the United States Government for not taking a more proactive stance and looking out for their own knowing the reality of how serious this has gotten. I will say this again, “The United States of America…If your reading this, be thankful because this could be you or your family being FORCED to live like this”.

Ask any volunteer why they are here and why they stay for as long as they do. Ten out of ten will tell you, “Because someone has to”.



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