As the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita become “old news,” we are faced with the integration of those displaced into many American communities throughout the U.S. For many children, it is adaptation to new, demanding education systems. For many adults, it is new employment, often significantly below their capability and skill levels. And for most, that nagging question in the back of their minds is still there, “Should I return to New Orleans?”
Some who have returned describe many areas of New Orleans as a ghost town. As they experience their loss by direct observation, rather than by news media, the reality is slowly beginning to set in that it will be some time, if ever, before they will return. The process of moving from denial to acceptance is not easy when the loss experienced is not only material possessions, but also friends, family, and a familiar way of life.
In truth, it is somewhat like being a refugee from a different culture. Unless, we take responsibility to help make their integration easier. We can do so by becoming involved in their adaptaion, one person at a time. Human contact and acceptance is one of the most powerful medicines there is in integrating them in their new community. Not with a sense of pity, but with understanding, empathy, and compassion. Here are a few proactive action ideas:
1. Invite a displaced kid to be part of your study group; if you don’t have a study group, start one.
2. Invite a displaced family to dinner to begin the establishment of new friendships; even if it feels artificial at first. All relationships start that way.
3. Arrange for kids to get to know each other through established sports activities, outdoors acitivities, YMCA, YWCA, and those that I have no knowledge of! Kids have an incredible capacity for adaptation and making new friends.
4. Provide employment opportunities by actively enrolling and advertising for those displaced. Don’t just make a one-time offer from afar, but commit yourself to assisting the employment of a specific number of those displaced, and do it.
5. Those of us with the means or facilities, can begin training programs to help those displaced in acquiring new competencies and skills for high demand jobs.
6. Local education systems might consider a dedicated effort to providing scholarships and/or training grants for those displaced. Applications for quick return grants should be available from federal, private, and foundation sources.
The point here is to think of what you are good at doing. If and how you would like to help others with your talents and means. Then take action without the necessity of any organized effort. In the long run, we will probably discover that we will benefit as much or more than those we help. The word “help” means to assist them to become more empowered, not dependent. We each change the world, one person at a time.
As always, please contribute your ideas or thoughts. And tell your friends to visit this blog site. Thanks!