After days of continuous heavy rain, the seemingly never-ending deluge has caused the people of Louisiana to endure tremendous losses and great hardship. This historic 1-in-500-year rainfall event had caused the destruction of more than 146,000 homes, impacted thousands of businesses, and the loss of lives. Certain areas in Louisiana had received as much as 30 inches of rain.
Regional Chapters Involved
Southern (Texas), National Headquarters
Baton Rouge, East Baton Rouge, Gonzales, Central City, Denham Spring
Tzu Chi volunteers arrived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on August 23, 2016, and promptly began their disaster relief assessment of the flood. There are still tremendous numbers of flood survivors who require aid, and our volunteers will continue to provide disaster relief in every way possible. We will record our latest developments here, as well as share the many inspiring and powerful stories from the people of Louisiana.
September 11: Offering Aid To Those Who Have Given So Much
At our fifth aid distribution in Louisiana today, volunteers were glad to have gotten the chance to aid many first responders to the flood. These are the firefighters who dropped everything amidst the chaos, and rushed to the aid of others, despite the terrible damage that they, too, received from the storm. We were honored to be able to offer 90 of these courageous and steadfast individuals a helping hand after all that they have done for others. Our volunteers have seen the devastation that this flood has wrought and how badly people were affected; these firefighters received no less from the storm, but they still selflessly put the needs, concerns, and overall well-being of others before their own. It was in this first distribution of the day that we were able to provide aid for 171 families.
Also at the distribution event was a war veteran who served bravely for eight years, his lovely wife, and their two delightful little boys. He spoke about his efforts to rebuild their home on their own, the difficulties they have faced due to their lack of flood insurance, and how they simply do not have the funds to hire other help with this huge endeavor.
He is incredibly grateful for friends and neighbors who have lent him a hand, however, and even one who allowed him to borrow their car, so he and his family could get around. Their own car, their home, children’s school projects, precious childhood drawings, and priceless family heirlooms were lost to the flood.
He had told us about how he had gone out for a short time to buy breakfast for his family, and by the time he got home, he was utterly shocked by the change. The family began to pack some of their belongings quickly, knowing they had to escape, but the flood had already begun to surge dramatically, waves lapping across his backyard, and trapping them inside until, fortunately, they could be rescued by the National Guard.
Our volunteers also had organized a second distribution on Sunday afternoon, which was aimed towards helping the amazing teachers of Louisiana’s Ascension Public Schools District. We were so glad to have been able to provide aid for 262 educators from 27 schools. Teachers do absolutely incredible things for their kids all year long, never ceasing to give every effort to their students, and we are always happy to be able to give back to them. It was an extremely heartwarming event, and so many teachers had tears in their eyes as they accepted the assistance. Being a teacher is certainly no easy job, requiring lots of energy, willpower, intelligence, strength of mind and body, as well as passion, and countless other qualities. A great number of students rely on these teachers to be all of these things daily, and they help students foster these positive characteristics in themselves as well. There is no doubt that teaching can be especially daunting in these circumstances, when even the bare essentials are lacking in their lives.
During these two distributions, we provided aid to 433 families, amounting in $216,500.
In the hopes of reaching out to even more people, we have created an online registry for flood survivors to fill out, and allow us to both spread the word and provide effective relief to as many people as we possibly can.
In total, our Louisiana flood relief mission provided $836,200 in disaster aid to 1,673 families, benefitting 5,553 people.
September 4: Labor Day Weekend
September 4th marks Tzu Chi’s fourth relief distribution for the people of Louisiana. The Labor Day Weekend was indeed a busy one for our volunteers. Distributions were held on both Saturday and Sunday to provide aid for flood survivors. Over these two days of distribution, 521 families were given aid which amounted to a total of $260,700. On the 4th, 262 families gathered at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, and received 130,900 alone. Within the course of the four #LAFlood distributions held so far, 692 families gained access to relief aid, and survivors have received $345,700 in assistance!
One of our distribution recipients, an older man, was so touched by our volunteer’s work on September 3, that he felt he had to come back the next day to personally thank them. Our volunteers were moved in return by his spirit and heartfelt actions. He gave them his donation in a bamboo bank, and vowed that he would help others as well, regardless of the undeniable hardship he continues to face from the effects of the flood.
September 3: Staying Strong
We are so grateful to have met and spoken to volunteers like Van Do, whose home was damaged and rendered unlivable in the flood, but who have remained a positive force. Van Do has been helping our volunteers since their first distribution in Baton Rouge. She told us that she feels fortunate. Even though she, too, was negatively affected by the disaster, she knows that there are people who have faced worse situations, and she wants to help them rebuild more than anything.
Over 120 volunteers were present from various areas of Texas, Louisiana, California, and New York. Having gotten the chance to get to know our volunteers during their last distribution, and when they found out Tzu Chi was having another, these amazing individuals volunteered to help! A total of 905 people benefitted from the event.
August 28: Watching the Waters
Hung Thi Nguyen, another care recipient that our volunteers got to speak with, told them about his experience being rescued by the National Guard. Not realizing that the flood was going to be as severe as it turned out to be, he did not evacuate his home. He watched as the waters steadily rose in his house, and quickly gathered a blanket and pillow, hoping it would be safe to make camp on his roof. This did not last long, however, as the flood eventually rose to meet him there as well. This is when he was rescued, and moved to the safety of a friend’s house. Things just seemed adamant to keep going wrong, and unfortunately, their home was confronted by the storm as well. He was rescued a second time, along with his friends, and they moved on again to find shelter provided by the Vietnamese Catholic Church. Hung Thi Nguyen was also living in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit 11 years ago, and his home was destroyed then as well. For now, he is still living in the shelter, and is unsure of his next step. He accepted a cash card from our volunteers tearfully, and vowed to give back once he is able to get back on his feet again.
Another care recipient, Gerard Mouton, was separated from his family during the flood. He is one of the people our volunteers got to hear from during their distribution at Formosa Plastics. He told them about how his wife and child had been evacuated first, and when he attempted to leave as well, the neighborhood had already been swallowed. The road was gone, and the lake by his house was on his lawn. Rather than try to reach a shelter, he also stayed at his home. He did eventually stay with a friend for a few days, whose home was luckily on higher ground. He was reunited with his family when the conditions were not as dangerous, and they have been working on fixing their house ever since. When volunteers came by, he was also building a bridge in his backyard. Mr. Mouton told them about how he and his wife loved sitting on the pier and watching the sunset. He wanted make the best of a bad situation, and take the opportunity to recreate that for her here.
August 26: Offering Aid
A second distribution event, as prompted by our volunteers’ meeting with Joseph Nguyen, was held in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, this morning to aid those affected by this horrendous flood. During the relief event, five families were helped, and wanting to do more, a second distribution event was held in the afternoon as well. This third relief event aided 122 families, and $61,000 in aid was distributed. These two events provided a total of an amazing $63,000 for 127 flood survivors.
August 25: Disaster Relief
Our team in Louisiana mobilized with great efficiency to host another cash card distribution event for those affected by this terrible flood. This time, however, distributions were specifically focused on helping workers from Formosa Plastics Corporation, who were severely impacted by the flood. Volunteers were able to provide relief to 44 families, the distributed amount totaling approximately $22,000.
Tzu Chi volunteers also met with Joseph Nguyen, a Vietnamese Community Leader in Louisiana, and were thus notified that there were many people who had not been helped, and were living in flooded houses. Some vulnerable communities were deemed ineligible to receive aid by other organizations due to their lack of insurance. Once alerted of the situation, volunteers immediately got to work, and continued disaster assessment. It was quickly determined that emergency distributions were necessary, and that a relief distribution would be held on Friday, August 26, at the Tam Bao Temple in Baton Rouge.
August 24: Distributions
There are so many amazing and heartrending accounts from the people of Louisiana. Despite the losses they suffer, flood survivors still are able to find positivity.
Mr. and Mrs. Boudreaux, had burst into tears when volunteers had given them aid:
Mr. Boudreaux stated that experiencing this disaster has caused him to adopt a new worldview, and that from now on, he would do his best to give back to society as well.
While delivering Cash Cards to those affected by the flood, Tzu Chi volunteers also came across a truly inspiring woman named Xiu Yue Xu. Much of her belongings, and namely her washing and vending machines, were utterly destroyed by the flood. When offered one of the Cash Cards, she would not take it from them, stating that she would rather it benefit to another person.
When the flood waters started coming, she was frightened, and did her best to attempt to put her belongings in higher places, but the water just kept coming.
The compassion and steadfastness that she had shown left a lasting affect on the volunteers, and astonished and motivated them to strengthen their efforts to further their efforts to provide relief for the people of Louisiana.
Tzu Chi has reached out to local residents as well, and offered support to those who needed an ear. Stephen Cherry recounted the day he and his family had to evacuate with barely a moment’s notice:
He also echoed the sentiment of many other people, that “the most important thing is we are safe.”
Stephen and his family were able to visit their home four days after the disaster:
He went through his family’s damaged photo album, and spoke about his children’s drawings that were destroyed by the flood as well. Those are the little things that he cherished most. He might be able to replace a flat screen TV, he mused, but those drawings are irreplaceable.
Tzu Chi was able to provide an emergency relief cash card for Stephen and his family, which he would use to help his children get back to school with new uniforms and study supplies.
August 23: VOAD Meeting and Assessment
Arriving in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, yesterday, August 23rd, a team of ten Tzu Chi volunteers from New York, California, and Texas, have begun disaster assessment, and met with members of the Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD). At the meeting, important relief information was shared among 90 individuals from over 40 charity organizations. Resources were coordinated, and the charities that were affected by the flood themselves expressed their needs. Among the concerns, and not including the most basic needs of food and shelter, the people of Louisiana still require school uniforms, more volunteers, and spiritual support.
Tzu Chi will continue to offer help to those affected by this tragedy in any way possible, and will work closely with other charities to provide compassionate relief to the people of Louisiana.