October 10, 2005

Coming to an end!!

Well it's been just about two weeks and the time has gone quickly. Though we didn't see much of the damage from the hurricanes, we did speak to many evacuees and their comments helped to to create our own images of the damages.

We not only spoke to people while we were doing our work but many evacuees were staying in our hotel and a shelter next to the hotel. Those in the shelter next door, were able to use the facilities therefore allowing us to meet even more people.

One of the things that you and I saw after the hurricane were all of the different politicians blaming each other. Well - after talking to many evacuees there main concern was to get help and get back on their feet. I don't think I heard one person complain of who was at fault, though some only blamed the hurricane not a person. One older man and his great nephew seemed to blame the local government because they beleive one of the levees was broken purposely to save New Orleans. Their town is called St. Bernard.

My children are sad we are leaving because they have met so many good people both volunteers and evacuees. They were exposed to so much that this will be an experience never to be forgotten. My son wants to go back, so he might actually do another two weeks within the next month or so. Rachel and Keith both befriended many families and individuals of which I was amazed. They are obiviously good listeners because these people treated my children as friends.

For me, I feel glad that we helped many people and that we accomplished what we went down to do. Of course, what we did was provide some small relief realizing that these people need much more help and it will be a long time before some people have a place to once again call home.

I think we will be friends for a long time with the team we worked with. Most of our team was from Pennsylvania, Ohio and New YOrk, so we should easily be able to meet periodically. It's always sad to say goodbye, but we had an experience that will stay with us forever.

As you can see, I am able to get some photos in the site and I will add many more photos including the wedding photos of the couple that was living in a shelter.

Thanks for checking in.


Photos and Final Day

October 06, 2005

October 6, 2005

Today we once again served people waiting for assistance from FEMA and other organizations. Some of these folks arrive at 4:00am. It was one of the slower days, but we still served over 500 meals. Of course it heats up pretty quick down here, so we try to arrive at 9:00am so that we can start the day by distributing water and some type of breakfast snacks.

Updating something I wrote about yesterday, I wrote about a couple that was arrested. Well it ends up that they were actually from this area and trying to pass themselves off as evacuees. For various reasons they committed a federal crime and could serve up to 20 years in prison. Their ages were 19 and 21.

Some evacuees will be returning to Lake Charles tomorrow. It appears ready to have people coming back and electricty has been restored to about 50 percent of the city.

I also presented an album with the photos of the wedding I shot earlier this week to the Newlywed Couple. They were very excited and I was glad to add some happiness in a small way.

At dinner tonight all of us were talking about our experiences during the last week and a half. We really became a team quickly and we all fear of a let down after we leave. Although some of our team may come back to serve another two weeks.

Well thanks for visiting my blog and I hope to figure out how to get some pictures on here. Take care.



October 05, 2005

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UPDATE October 5, 2005

Since arriving in Alexandria and beginning our volunteer efforts time has flown. I thought I would be updating this blog more often, but after the long hot days working in the sun there just isn't much energy in the eveving.

Alexandria is now the temporary or some may become the permanent home of many evacuees from New Orleans and other areas. We have been fortunate to have lodging in a Holiday Inn because there are many evacuees living in the hotel as well as in a shelter behind the hotel. This has given all of us an opportunity to hear first hand descriptions of how the hurricanes destroyed the homes and livliedhood of many people.

People who have returned to their homes have told us that though the homes were still standing, mostly everything was destroyed because of flooding. It may be years before some people can get back into their homes if ever.

My job has been providing meals to evacuees at the local FEMA relief center. Yesterday we served over 1,200 meals in just over three hours.

Serving the meals has given me another opportunity to meet people and listen to their current situation. Listening has been very important and is helpful to those who just need to get some things off their chest. We have had several people breakdown while waiting to get their food.

Today, I saw a young couple taken aways in handcuffs. They were using various ideas to collect funds and we discovered in line waiting for help today. They had already collected over $10,000. Tonight their shelter is a bed behind bars.

Earlier in the week my son Keith was asked to be the bestman/witness for a marriage of a couple living in a shelter. Keith has a knack for getting to know people and he meet them in the hotel lounge. I photographed the wedding and presented them with a photo album today.

I realized just how small of a world it is when my daughter who was doing her volunteer job of providing financial assitance to indviduals just happen to meet a friend of Vallery Gaines. Vallery's friend's home was under water and will probably have to be destroyed and rebuilt.

I will try to update one more time before I leave and then once I get back. I am anxious to see my wife and youngest daughter Nicole and also to get into cooler weather. The temperature has been in the 90's everyday and the humidity has been very high.

See you soon. I hope you enjoy some of the photos below.

September 27, 2005

September 27 - Arrived in Louisiana

Today we arrived in Jackson, Mississippi. I am volunteering with two of my children Keith and Rachel along with another person from Cleveland, Lisa.

Once we were done getting registered in Jackson, Mississippi we were driven to Alexandria, Louisiana. We saw signs of hurricane damage like trees that had fallend on houses, lots of branches and we soon discovered the not so visible signs of no running water. Lucky for us running water returned to the city shortly after we arrived.

Behind the building we are staying in is a shelter filled with 500 people on 500 cots. It was quite a site to see, because we were seeing first hand what we have been seeing on television. It was an emotional moment for each one of us.

Well - Wednesday morning we get our first assignments. I should have some interesting photos Wednesday evening.

Take care.


September 26, 2005

Waiting for Flight Confirmation

I am volunteering for The Salvation Army in the areas hit by the recent hurricanes. My oldest children Rachel (21) and Keith (22) will be joining me in my trip. At one time I worked for The Salvation Army as PR Director and at that time had the chance to work in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in Homestead, Florida. It was a very rewarding experience and I hope that my children can experience the same feelings that I had after serving people in need.

Today is Monday, September 26 and I am expecting to get flight information any moment. We are expected to leave on Tuesday.

The next update will be from somewhere in the south!! Watch for photographs as well.

Your colleague,

Ron Vojacek
Director, Major Gifts
Case Western Reserve University
Case School of Engineering