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Disaster Relief Over the Holidays

December 18, 2006

Boston, MA - During the second holiday season after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, the holiday spirit is low and life is still hard in the "Big Easy." A report by the Brookings Institution says families there are still holding out for life's necessities. While New England children are happy to be on break from school, kids in New Orleans would be happy just to have their school back; more than half of New Orleans public schools are still closed.

Amy Liu, from the Brookings Institution, says New Orleans won't recover until it can provide a decent life for people to return to.

"In order to have families coming back they need to have housing, but at the same time they want to have decent services. They can't come home if there are no good schools or hospitals."

Malaak Compton-Rock, wife of comedian Chris Rock, recently visited New Orleans. She worries most about those who were left behind.

"A lot of the families that actually left New Orleans have been able to put their lives back on track. I'm worried about those people who are still in New Orleans."

New Orleans and three adjacent parishes saw almost one-third of their population leave and not return. A year ago, Massachusetts provided temporary homes for over 200 evacuees on Cape Cod, and there are still many Massachusetts charities taking donations for Katrina Relief.

The Gulf Coast isn't the only area still struggling to get back to normal this holiday season. A day after Christmas in 2004, a tsunami hit Indonesia, killing 230,000 people in a dozen countries and displacing millions. Jeremy Barnicle from Mercy Corps, with offices in Cambridge, says they're helping people "build back better," as they prepare for the next disaster.

"We have a rare opportunity to help build communities that are better than they were even when the tsunami struck."

Amy Liu's latest Katrina recovery report is available online, at www.brookings.edu. You can help by calling the Children's Defense Fund at 1-800-233-1200.

Kevin Clay/David Law, Public News Service - MA