Hurricane Katrina was our next disaster relief commitment eight months after we began Kirwin International Relief Foundation (KIRF) with our first disaster relief project in response to the Andaman Sea Tsunami catastrophe in Thailand. Our inititial goal was modest due to our small size and funding: help a few families get back on their feet with living supplies they lost when Hurricane Katrina destroyed their homes. The specifics of how we were going to do this was worked out after we got to the disaster area and met with local people affected by the hurricane who we met through mutual friends and business acquaintances here in California.
In the weeks after the hurricane hit on August 29th we held a fundraiser on October 1st with five bands who donated their entertainment, donated food from local restaurants and some local media coverage. Youth members from two area Roots & Shoots groups, the Great Pacific Child Development Center in Ventura and Ojai Blackhawks in Ojai, helped us raise funds by volunteering at the party or donating raffle prizes. Our own Roots & Shoots group raisded funds at school by collecting spare change in mason jars in their classes with signs on them that read “Give a little & help a lot for hurricane Katrina relief”.
On October 13th, KIRF’s co-founder, Angela Kirwin flew to Mississippi – with photojournalist and volunteer, Timothy Burdick – with donations that KIRF raised for the hurricane Katrina survivors.
Once in Mississippi we were able to help hurricane victims in the towns of Hattiesburg, Picayune and Gulfport with the generous support and donations raised that we and our volunteers had raised.
Angela Kirwin returned to Mississippi to finish distributing donations raised for hurricane Katrina relief with volunteer and International Humanities Center president Steve Sugarman on November 17th.
After we saw the devastation first hand and spoke with the hurricane displaced people in MS our goals for hurricane Katrina relief were clear:
- Deliver living supplies (eg: kitchen and bathroom supplies, cleaning supplies, bedding and in some cases, clothing and school supplies) to families who lost their homes and who were most in need of assistance as identified to us by their children’s school teachers and school district administrators
- Connect these “most in need” homeless families with local community leaders who could help them get a FEMA trailer or other assistance
- Emphasize to the displaced kids their specialness as “survivors” and the concern for them by other kids outside of the Gulf Coast with a Roots & Shoots youth service project that shows care and concern for the human community: our Holiday Card Exchange that connected elementary school children in California with elementary children affected by Hurricane Katrina in Picayune, MS
- Purchase infant and children’s comfort toys for the hurricane damaged but busy pediatric ward of the Gulfport Memorial Hospital
- Provide winter clothing donated by Patagonia to families still sleeping outside