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This Month's Reader Comments
I recently subscribed to your online newsletter for the reasons most people do; I was intrigued by your concept, and looking at it as a possibility in my future. Well, I guess that changed for a lot of people in the States (even the world) since a young lady named Katrina passed through.
Now, though I realize all the cultural aspects I've always enjoyed in New Orleans and the Gulf (in addition to the occasional PoBoy and libation) is on hold, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities there now, and plenty of us New Orleans and Gulf Shore fans that are desperate to give back to places that hold so many memories.
I truly hope (as I suspect you have already) that plans are being made with your organization to offer organized opportunities to go help rebuild those great and special places that hold so many memories for so many of us. Having lived in New Orleans briefly as a child (and before we lost my dad), it was hard not to call a friend with a van and just load right up and go down there with a hammer and a backpack and start frantically trying to put it all back together. But, realizing I'd be more of a burden than a help at this point, I can only hope people like you and Habitat for Humanity will put some practicle plans together for those of us that aren't schooled in home im-provements to help.
If everybody that's expressed this same need were organized and brought just one hammer and one nail, the entire region could be up and running in record time. Perhaps your organization AND Habitat for Humanity could join forces to make this happen?
Well, whichever one of you gets the bus running from Memphis first, I'M ON IT!! I also plan to post this letter on nola.com and craigslist.org/New Orleans sites so that some like-minded people I met on their forums can read it. (You better get SEVERAL busses, I think!) There's a lot of man and woman-power out there that just needs a couple of experts on each team to guide us, and we can get the job done!
You give someone a great deal about which to think.
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However, now we have had another global disaster on an even larger scale than that of New Orleans. Pakistani Kashmir has been devastated with more than 20,000 deaths in that region alone! The death toll continues to climb with roads impassable and relief efforts stymied by weather and lack of equipment.
But what role does VolunTourism play in these global challenges?
Initially - NOTHING!
Having individuals that are well-meaning and intent on serving those who have suffered is a great topic for conversation amongst family and friends. But there is no place for those who do not have skills and knowledge of dealing with trauma and post-trauma issues, immediate health concerns, and other challenges that follow in the wake of a disaster.
It is best that we leave these kinds of concerns to the experts - those well-trained in the art of rendering relief.
VolunTourism is a noble cause, but it is a cause that holds a specific place in the continuum from disaster to ultimate reconstruction. That place, as development folks will tell you, is likely to be found at least six months after a disaster occurs.
Although the waiting may seem interminable, it gives the people that have been affected by the trauma the time to receive the initial care that they need, to once again have proper food and clothing as well as interim shelter restored to them.
You bring up a good thought in your email when you say, "But realizing I'd be more of a burden than a help at this point,..." You are abolutely correct. In the case of New Orleans, Pakistan, Romania, Guatemala - any of these places are worthy of receiving your well-intended service. But, now is not the time. Money is the initial need in situations like this. Labor is a second; and far-removed from the initial occurrence.
Be patient. Global disasters are occurring at a record pace. We cannot rush out immediately in an effort to erase the tragedy before our eyes.
My suggestion is look to the East, now. Southeast Asia, the site of the December 26th Tsunami, is now about ready for individuals like yourself who are ready to deliver your time and service in support of rebuilding lives. Your combination of tourism dollars with voluntary service will be most welcome in a region that can use both!
Let us hear from you! Email us with your questions, comments, and testimonials at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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