Hancock County Update 15
News From Mark Proulx - Special to GCN
Editors Note: GCN's vision has always been to be the Coast's community information website. After Katrina, I started seeing numerous reports from Hancock County on the GCN Message board from Mark Proulx and felt his reports needed more upfront exposure as information out of Hancock County has been hard to get. Mark agreed to help and here is his latest report - Keith Burton - GCN
REAL HELP AND A TRUE MODEL OF EFFICIENCY
WAVELAND - Across from the Waveland Police Department in the Fred's parking lot is a group of people set up to feed up to 1,000 people a day. Let me repeat that....1,000 people a DAY. They have a clinic set up like a battlefield triage center. They are giving out tetanus shots and vaccinations, prescribing heart medication, fully licensed medical practitioners who have made it a life style to camp out in national parks all over America every year surviving on nothing more than the land. They subscribe to no religion or political party, they have no hierarchical structure to speak of and they don't take "no" for an answer when it comes to helping those who desperately need it. They pitched a tent, started working with a Christian organization out of Texas who were already on the ground there by the second day after Hurricane Katrina hit, and began forming what may be the most efficiently run disaster relief center on the entire Gulf Coast. And who is funding this well-oiled machine, you ask?
Meet the "Rainbow Gathering" out of Asheville, NC. A group (more like a "tribe") of PhDs, MDs, nurses and other professionals who took it upon themselves to purposely take their survival skills and their medical and professional experience into the "battle zone" with nothing more than the small amount of money they raised between themselves and a small fund raiser in their town of Asheville, North Carolina. They have been braving unbearable heat, ungodly humidity and the sheer numbers of people coming to them for help. Feeding up to 1,000 people a day can take its toll on anyone...but imagine doing so in one of the most inhospitable environments in the United States today? Even so, they have affectionately named their haven and hovel "The New Waveland Cafe". A fitting and friendly name, befitting a fitting and friendly group of people. http://www.newwavelandcafe.blogspot.com/
With little more than tents over their heads during the day, sleeping in the backs of their cars at night and pulling 16-hour shifts, Brad Stone, RJ, Scott and Hawker - along with about 30 other associates - are doing what no government or donor-funded organization has done so far....gotten organized. And I don't mean just your average organization. This is a totally non-competitive, non-hierarchical, transparent accounting, complete sharing of lessons learned each and every day group. They have a plan of attack each and every day. They have a HAM radio set up to call out to the EOC for supplies (and thanks goes out to Mike Sweeney at the EOC who has been in touch with them, getting them all the supplies they ask for! Thanks, Mike!) They teamed up with the Bastrop Christian Outreach Center, out of Bastrop, TX (http://www.bastropchristianoutreachcenter.org/) who had been on the ground there from the very first days after Hurricane Katrina struck. What is interesting here is that a Christian ministry and a secular organization who holds to no set religious beliefs have come together, joined forces and are a powerhouse of efficiency! They have been gaining momentum in caring for the people of Waveland, including getting medical supplies, but they have received very little assistance from FEMA in any way.
"The problem with FEMA," says RJ, the newly appointed Communications Department, "is that they work from the head...not the heart. It's a job to them and they don't know what it takes to work in this environment." Since the Rainbow group has for years been setting up camp in inhospitable climates, living off the land and surviving by honing their outdoor skills, they were able to set up directly on the asphalt pavement, where heat indexes rise to well over 100 degrees every day. "It's hot! We see dozens of people each and every day that are dehydrated and suffering from heat exhaustion. Water won't do in this heat, people need to replenish their electrolytes. We bought 84 boxes of emergency packets (multivitamins) with our own money. Mix this in with an eight-ounce glass of water and in about ten minutes, the person is fine again. We've gone through all of them in a matter of days and need to get more. We're used to this since we do this all the time, but these FEMA people don't have a clue. They can't manage what they don't understand."
Brad Stone (just call him "Stone") is an aspiring PhD / MD student and emergency medical technician and spent $2,500 of his own money to purchase a defibrillator to have on hand, just in case. So far, the Rainbow volunteers have treated two heart attacks, provided neonatal care, wound dressings, dozens of vaccinations, tetanus shots, triage, dispensed medication and have written prescriptions for people who can then go to the Walmart, which had just opened up in Bay St Louis, to fill what the Rainbow people don't have in stock.
Even though they feel they have been hampered in their efforts to care for people, a representative meets with the EOC every morning a 9 a.m. to fill them in on what is happening. FEMA has actually inspected their "facility" and checked out their credentials. According to Stone, "Some guy from FEMA stormed in and demanded that I show him some credentials. So I showed him my medical license to practice. He said "Oh" and just left. I haven't seen him come back yet. We have been asked by the EOC to stay until Thanksgiving because we are providing such a necessary service."
Where are they in terms of this crisis, I asked? "We are in the middle of half-crisis, half-chronic problems now," says RJ. "We are working in sweltering heat with no break from it. We desperately need a van, large camper, blood mobile...something air conditioned just to get people out of the heat for even a little while. They have plenty of trailers running over at the EOC but when we ask for them, the people just give us this stare and say 'we'll try to do something.' We need camping gear to get people back to a semblance of order in their lives. When we have cots or tents, people snap them up immediately. We could use a large circus tent, trailer with AC, propane stoves, pots and pans. We also need doctors and nurses...we feel like we're working with one hand tied behind our back."
If this is what these "non-official" volunteers are doing with one hand tied behind their backs....they are certainly in the running for citizens of the year. And more importantly, showing the world what common sense and a structured plan with experience can do without having to wade through useless red tape and bureacracy.
The Rainbow Gathering, on their own and donated funds from Asheville, have sent ANOTHER fully stocked kitchen to Lake Charles, LA to help the citizens there, as well. "We have yet another fully stocked kitchen that we asked for and is being delivered down here to Waveland, too," says RJ. "We're thinking of sending it over to Pass Christian where we know there is a huge need over there, especially with the Vietnamese population there that is not being cared for." How are you going to handle all three sites, I asked. "We are getting some volunteers coming down from North Carolina to help us out, but we're gonna do this any way we can. We're not asking for a hundred doctors or nurses or volunteers because we do things a little bit different from regular organizations, but we could sure use the help."
Any medical person or volunteer wishing to donate their time to a truly outstanding cause, please contact the Rainbow Gathering's medical contact, Stone at 773-407-0854. For those who wish to get more information, donate money to help them continue on working, or volunteer to help, contact RJ at 828-280-6338.
Want to know more about the Rainbow Gathering, go to http://www.newwavelandcafe.blogspot.com/ , RJ has been posting some interesting blog entries and photos when he can.
When I investigated this group and had a chance to talk with the different members, I felt it was all important to focus an entire article on them, simply because this was the kind of effort we were expecting from the larger, more well-funded formal organizations. Since this support never materialized, even after FOUR WEEKS, it was apparent that energy and funds needed to be pushed in the direction that was doing the most good. According to Stone, the Red Cross has officially made it known that the Rainbow group's facility is now serving as the largest relief facility along the Gulf Coast by far. I can honestly say that when I got off the phone from talking to Stone, Scott, Hawker and RJ, I was singularly impressed. In addition to the fine donations sites addressed below, I will also be including the Rainbow Gathering as a truly exceptional and worthwhile donations cause, as well. As soon as I receive word that they are set up to receive donations, I will post the information immediately.
FEMA, Red Cross....take notice. THIS is how to operate. Friends reading this...help them in any way you possibly can. They deserve it!
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