BILOXI, Miss. -- Katrina Aid Today, a consortium of largely faith-based and service organizations led by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), is placing about 3,000 case workers throughout the United States to help Hurricane Katrina victims get their lives back on track.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awarded $66.2 million to Washington-based Katrina Aid Today to train and staff the effort. A training session for case managers was recently held at the federal-state Joint Field Office in Biloxi.
Such volunteer work is the April 23-29 focus during Gov. Haley Barbour’s eight-week Stay Alert. Stay Alive. hurricane awareness campaign.
“Volunteers are among the first groups on site whenever disaster strikes,” said Jesse Munoz, acting director of the transitional recovery office for the Mississippi Hurricane Katrina recovery. “Volunteers work tirelessly, and they stick around until the job is finished.”
Katrina Aid Today is funded by donations from outside the United States. Help is coming from more than 90 nations including Great Britain, Japan, Canada, Germany and China. Sri Lanka, the small nation inundated by tsunami in 2004, offered a donation.
Other countries have sent supplies and personnel. Denmark provided blankets, first aid kits and personnel. Indonesia sent a medical team. Tiny Luxembourg provided cots, blankets and rescue vehicles. Some nations sent money and supplies. The Dominican Republic sent money as well as medical and rescue workers. In addition to money, Kuwait provided oil. South Korea offered money, a search team and relief supplies.
Katrina Aid Today training sessions also are being conducted throughout the country where Hurricane Katrina survivors have relocated. A training session is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday in Pasadena, Calif.
During each training session, about 600 case managers learn to help “bring people out of relief mode and move forward to a stable, productive recovery,” said Warren Harrity, executive director of UMCOR Katrina Aid Today. These case managers will recruit up to four volunteer case workers each, swelling the ranks of Katrina Aid Today workers to about 3,000 people who will work directly with survivors.
“A key benefit of having face-to-face contact with a trained case worker is the sense of normalcy survivors will gain because their needs are being systematically assessed and then addressed,” Harrity said.
Case workers will work with survivors to develop action plans for recovery, identify sources of assistance for unmet needs and then help them obtain assistance through referral resources and long-term recovery committees. Harrity said Katrina Aid Today is not intended to provide direct assistance. The program’s case management approach complements, not duplicates, the efforts of FEMA and state-run disaster programs.
“It is our hope that this program is an impetus from relief to recovery,” he said.
In the first days following Katrina’s Aug. 29 landfall, social service agency officials and FEMA discussed how to assist survivors when Harrity, a veteran UMCOR disaster worker, toured the Katrina-ravaged areas.
“It was readily apparent that the case management approach was needed for the long term recovery because the need was greater than any one agency could handle,” Harrity said.
That led to the creation of Katrina Aid Today.
As communities form Long Term Recovery Committees, Katrina Aid Today will work with these committees and FEMA to help survivors regain a normal life, Harrity said.
“For Katrina survivors, it will take lots of courage, lots of support, and lots of perseverance over the long term,” he said.
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