Editor's note: Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast and submerged most of New Orleans. World Vision responded by opening a temporary 43,000-square-foot warehouse in Picayune, Mississippi, to distribute food, hygiene kits, building materials, and other supplies. Working with nearly 100 church and community partners, World Vision gave more than $9 million in goods to more than 318,000 survivors in the Gulf region. In addition, the organization distributed more than $1.5 million in grants to help churches and families get back on their feet.
Pauline Rogers can’t bring herself to throw out the notebook filled with names and phone numbers she collected in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
She doesn’t know why.
From New Orleans to Jackson, Mississippi, Pauline and her husband spent years helping families and church communities recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina. Their organization, the Reaching and Educating for Community Hope Foundation (RECH), worked with World Vision to provide relief and recovery in the months following the disaster. The partnership continues today, 10 years later.
Something about the names and notes in that book tells Pauline not to let go.
“A lot of people have not bounced back yet,” Pauline says.
Occasionally, she says, she opens the pages, picks out a few names, and sends an encouraging note to each one.
“I pray for the people,” she says. “Maybe my emotions are damaged to the point I don’t know they’re damaged, but I find myself not being able to toss it.”
As the country commemorates 10 years since Katrina hit, Pauline reflects on experiences in disaster growing up and the journey through the aftermath of the late-August 2005 storm that changed lives and communities forever.
The oldest of 11 children, Pauline grew up on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. Her large extended family and surrounding community had to depend on each other to ride out and rebound from the storms that came through regularly.
She was 13 when Hurricane Camille — even more powerful than Katrina — hit in 1969.
“That was the pivotal one that got me on the mark that I would always be involved (in disaster relief),” she says. In Camille, “the damage was worse (than normal), recovery took longer, we were without light longer, and we had to take care of our neighbors longer. We had to be more strategic in how we survived.”
She and her husband, who live in Jackson, Mississippi, started the RECH Foundation to do just that. And after Katrina, need was everywhere.
Within a couple of months of the storm, RECH had partnered with World Vision and local churches to help families recover and rebuild.
“World Vision supplied goods and resource — we could not have done without them: shingles, tubs, sinks, shovels, rakes, personal hygiene items,” Pauline says. “No way could we have purchased these items. It kept us afloat to enable us to help others.”
Eventually, the response turned to equipping communities to be better prepared for future disasters. Pauline has teamed up with World Vision to provide disaster-preparedness training for church and community leaders and helped them establish response systems and volunteer networks.
“Communities have definitely improved and changed, because, had World Vision not been there, it would have been worse,” Pauline says. “This is not creating a welfare system but remembering and paying attention to real needs. World Vision was listening. They took notes and paid attention.”