Friday, September 02, 2005

Volunteering at Reliant Arena

Spent the day down at Reliant Arena, which is in Reliant Park where the Astrodome is located. They have set up a temporary shelter there now that the Astrodome is full. I started out working in the temporary staging area where they were putting people as they got off the buses. We directed them to seats, got them food and water, handed out blankets, collected trash, whatever was needed. Then they got registered and waited for clothes, showers, and then to be moved on to a place with cots. I also sorted clothes for awhile. The response from Houstonians has been heart warming. The efforts seem to be totally run and staffed by volunteers, even the doctors and nurses. The only paid staff was probably the police and firemen.

The people are coming basically with the clothes on their back and the few items they can shove in a garbage bag. They are tired and weary, but are also calm and patience, (and probably just stunned and wiped out), no one was causing trouble, and they were very appreciative of the help. People had lots of questions -- one the big ones "When can I take a shower?,” which was coming.

I'll probably go back over the weekend...they are going to need volunteers 24/7 for days if not weeks. I'm not sure if there is a stage 2 plan in place to help people long term (but if FEMA is involved, based on their current performance, I doubt it ). It's going to be probably months before they can go back to New Orleans, if they do. I have a feeling many will stay in Texas. In and around Houston alone they estimate there are 100,000 evacuees, from those just arriving to those who left before the storm hit. They plan on opening Reliant Center as a third large shelter and then the George R. Brown Convention Center.

One of the saddest things was the lost children area where the they have volunteers playing with kids who can't find there parents.

The whole thing is both heart breaking, yet the way people can pull together in a crisis is heartwarming -- rather cliché but apt (and I'm too tired for details).

Also, I have to give kudos to local Houston officials and Mayor White for really stepping up to the plate and providing some semblance of leadership in this crisis, unlike the President who, in my opinion, is failing on that front. And thanks to all the citizens of the Houston-area who have opened their city to those in need, opened their hearts and wallets, and given their time.

Please donate what you can to the relief charity of your choice. Here is a link to the Houston Red Cross.

I leave you with this…

No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee. --John Donne


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At 7:25 PM, Blogger Brian Campbell said...

Very touched not only by your commentary but by the quote of John Donne. That's why my own entry on my blog this morning leaves me "feeling so cold". if I were in your place, I'd be doing as you're doing right now. All the powers be with you. From here, well... I'll send daimoku.

At 11:34 AM, Anonymous Lee said...

Yeah, volunteering at reliant arena isn't all it's cracked up to be. They made me clean the bathroom last time I did that. What surprised me the most was that the woman's restroom was worst that they mens. What's up with that?


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