Habitat For Humanity

Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by Gary Wassner, Apr 28, 2008.

  1. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

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    I just returned from New Orleans. I volunteered to work for Habitat For Humanity in the 9th Ward, building houses for those who lost them during Katrina. It's something I've wanted to do since the hurricane but never did. But it's never too late to help! This was one of the most amazing, inspiring experiences of my life. I'm now planning to go back and work again, but this time I hope to bring my whole family.

    I write about ethics in my books. I write about action and choice. We are what we do in this world, no more. Though my time there was short, I feel as if I've actually done more in four days than in many of my past years.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. Andols

    Andols I like stories

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    I've done some work for them up here in the great white north. They do a lot of good.
     
  3. BrianC

    BrianC bmalone.blogspot.com

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    Hey, if you're in need of work our new house has a few upgrades that we want to add . . .
     
  4. zorobnice

    zorobnice Where's Tonto

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    They do a lot of good out here too Gary. I often take a walk around the block every hour and half or so, and have got to chatting to lots of people who work in the business park where I do. I got chatting to a chap who who was telling me how he helped pressure hose an elderly couples house roof down recently, and they insisted on paying him. He was livid, he was not doing it for the money, the fact is the couple is in their eighties and he had the time so he thought he would do them a favour.

    It does raise the question about what motivates people to do things for other people for nothing. I did counselling at a lay-clinic for 12 years, and it was tremendously rewarding, to watch people change. It is the best when someone is helped and they appreciate it, I hated it though when people would come in and expect this or that and feel it was their right to your time. I also worked for 2 years for a community service organisation that goes around helping farm workers, teaching them health and hygiene, the door method of farming etc. that was eye opening and exceptionally rewarding.

    So what motivated you, Gary, to give of your time???
     
  5. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

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    I feel very fortunate. I'm lucky in many respects. I feel bad for those who are suffering. I just wanted to help.
     
  6. KatG

    KatG Effulgent Staff Member

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    Excellent. I've always wanted to do it, but haven't managed it yet. But it's terrific that you're doing it. Katrina and its fallout was the first moment in my life when I was ever ashamed of being an American, and I'm still very angry about it. Do you know if they are fixing the levies properly out there, with the Dutch model? I haven't heard anything about it lately.
     
  7. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

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    It was great KatG. Truly great.

    From what I was told, the levies are no stronger or better than they were before Katrina, and another big hurricane and swell would wreak as much damage as it did the last time.

    It was also interesting to hear how much animosity the displaced victims have for FEMA, and how much love they have for Jimmy Carter, Americorp and Habitat for Humanity.
     
  8. Fung Koo

    Fung Koo >:|Angry Beaver|: <

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    I grew up in Nova Scotia where the Acadians are from. When they were kicked out of Nova Scotia by the Brits back in the day, many of them sailed down south and became the 'Cajuns.

    Huge portions of Nova Scotia are as much as 200ft below sea level and the only thing that keeps it from flooding are the dykes that the Acadians built all across he province as much as 400 years ago. Couple that with the fact that most of the dykes are built along the Bay of Fundy (which is home to the highest recorded tides in the world), and that Nova Scotia is hit with hurricanes annually (mostly where the dykes are) -- that's some damn impressive 400 year old technology. They're basically enormous dirt piles with controlled irrigation systems.

    There are Acadian/Cajun dykes all across Louisianna. The fancy new Dutch system stills pales in comparison to the Acadian dyke. So why not just expand them?
     
  9. KatG

    KatG Effulgent Staff Member

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    Because the people who made them 400 years ago are gone. :)

    Obviously, effective dirt dykes could be extended in many places on the coast. But a city/port/oil station the size of New Orleans is going to need something else, and the Dutch are pretty good at this too. I'm outraged, but not surprised to hear that they aren't bothering, though. I don't know if it's a wound that will ever heal.
     
  10. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

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    The French Quarter is thriving again. And downtown looks perfectly normal. Like usual, it's the poorer areas that haven't be revitalized. So many of the former inhabitants have relocated. They didn't have insurance. They had no place else to live. So they left and never came back. The 9th ward is empty. Wal Marts, Burger Kings, whole shopping malls, churches and schools, all abandoned and never rebuilt.

    Looks like a war zone.

    And we spend billions building roads in Baghdad.
     
  11. Fung Koo

    Fung Koo >:|Angry Beaver|: <

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    Who isn't bothering?

    My question is always: when does personal responsibility for personal safety overtake the sense of entitlement to government responsibility? Barely 500 people built a system out of dirt piles and simple wooden sluices to protect themselves that's lasted 400 years across an area 10 times the size of Louisiana.

    I'm curious about some of the wording used here, though. Not to be overly callous or disrespectful to those still suffering from the effects of Katrina, but is it truly fair to call them victims?

    People have been swinging the death rattle on New Orleans for generations. It's been common knowledge that it was basically unprotected and doomed to suffer from an Act of God. If you live deliberately ignoring the warning signs all around, is it really fair to call you a victim? Doesn't that cheapen the reality of true victimhood? If the people of New Orleans were duped into believing they were safe, that would be one thing. But there's ample evidence to suggest that virtually everyone knew this was a probability. And it's a democracy. It's not like there's no channel through which to force change.

    The people of Iraq, by comparison, are the actual victims of a stupid and unjust war predicated on lies and superstitions. There's no Act of God here -- just plain old human idiocy. They deserve recompense, and they deserve it from those who made them into the victims they've become. The people of New Orleans, on the other hand, lived in a danger zone and knew it and did basically nothing about it and now everyone's running around shocked that something bad happened??

    It seems like rather inappropriately constructed blame, don't you think? Seems rather like the voluntary ignorance and wishful thinking that lead to the disaster in the first place, nay?

    Where does the responsibility lie for the failure? I think it's a hard case to argue that the inhabitants of New Orleans that have been displaced are victims of much more than their own inaction and the uncaring forces of nature. It's like using a condom you suspect is broken and being surprised at the resulting pregnancy, or staring at the schoolyard bully and being shocked that he hits you. Yes, the government response was lacklustre at best, but that's hardly surprising, is it? It's not like they can appear compassionate in their PR campaign while saying "You all knew this was coming and now you're demanding recompense? WTF?"

    Victims? Really?


    stir stir stir...
     
  12. Andols

    Andols I like stories

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    As a fellow maritimer you will appreciate the same situation on a much smaller scale happening in Fredericton. Their river floods every year and has had several horrible instances over the past 50 years. They did nothing to help in case of another flood situation and it finally came.

    Mind this is a much smaller situation than NO. Only a few hundred homes and businesses ruined. No deaths. I still find it odd though, that people would build million dollar homes in a guaranteed flood zone and then look to the government for assistance.
     
  13. Hereford Eye

    Hereford Eye Just Another Philistine

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    Every form of refuge has its price.
    Look at all the people living in Florida or all the people moving back into New Orleans or the people in Galveston or the people in Oklahoma or the people living on the beaches in Hawaii. There is no safe place in the world though some are less risky than others.
    Take GW's own New York. With the seas rising, shouldn't everyone get the hell out of there?
    I live in a desert where the population continues to grow exponentially while the sources of drinking waer continue to shrinkinto oblivion. Anyone with any sense would get the hell out of here.
    But, then, name a place they could go.
     
  14. Andols

    Andols I like stories

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    There are degrees of severity in those situations though. There are other places in the world prone to disasters and they make allowances for them. They also take precautions as best they can.
     
  15. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

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    Fung, you are one callous bastard. ;)

    The ignorant, the uneducated, the poor are victims. They had few alternatives. They weren't insured. They didn't have summer homes to go live in. They lost their jobs, their homes, their pets, their families.

    Habitat homes aren't gifts. The people who are entitled to them must put in 700 hours of labor in the community, be able to put up a cash downpayment and be able to demonstrate that they can handle the debt service on the low interest federally subsidized mortgage. They have a stake in the homes.

    The fact that people from all over the country volunteered to help build these homes is fantastic. They see the pain and suffering, and how unfair it all seems.

    The commercial profit centers got back to speed very quickly. The disadvantaged neighborhoods are still a disaster.
     
  16. Fung Koo

    Fung Koo >:|Angry Beaver|: <

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    'ey, by ;)

    That's kinda it.

    In my hometown (Windsor, NS) we had a brief argument once upon a time about certain areas where flooding occurred pretty frequently. The residents blamed the town for not putting proper infrastructure where their homes were, and the town told them to sod off because they bought their homes there because they were cheap because they were built in a low valley that was below sea level and subject to unavoidable flooding.

    I think the town's response is basically criminal, delinquent at least. They should have either declared the area unsafe to live in (the whole place was a bog, so the bugs were insane and the kids were sickly, the repairs were making the people their poor and their insurance was ridiculous, and no one will buy their homes because they constantly flood) and kicked everyone out, or done something to improve the situation. Since both options are basically impossible because people will claim it's their right to have the home and nothing that was done could foreseeably help, what's the town council to do?

    I maintain the town should have said "fine, we'll give you parity on your house and bulldoze them and declare the area a nature sanctuary." I can see the hurt feelings, but it's the only sensible action. And they should have added "if you choose to stay it's of your own volition and we accept no responsibility for your health, costs, actions, etc."

    Meanwhile further up the valley in Kentville flooding happens on their rivers every year. So the people living along the rivers set up a community group to build up the flood wall dykes along the rivers. They did it themselves with a town permit (which the town comped) and did it for free.

    Proactive solution.

    As for Fredericton... I feel bad because the flooding this year is definitely particularly bad. But that's what insurance is for. If you've taken proper precautions to protect your home from damage and it still gets damaged... that's what insurance is for. The government is not responsible for comping you for your own failure to look after your own investment. And when the government does comp people, it creates a dependency. And engenders a false sense of governmental responsibilities.
     
  17. Fung Koo

    Fung Koo >:|Angry Beaver|: <

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    True, but people also take precautions to protect what they have. If you live in the desert, you have to have access to a well and emergency water reserves, right? That's just common sense. If you live on the beach in Hawaii, you have to accept the risk associated. Build your house on stilts and lock it into the bedrock. If you live in San Francisco build your house with whatever earthquake protection is available.

    Some places really need to have population caps.

    Actually, that's probably not really such a big threat. Most of the arctic ice is floating, which means it displaces roughly the same volume of water that it's composed of. When it melts, sea levels will rise a little bit, but not that much. The only major rise will come from the ice that slides off of the land, so water levels are maybe going to up by a metre or two. It's not actually a big threat. The media just loves to spin it because it sounds scary.

    Survivalism and tribalism, my friend. Head for the nearest watering hole and drink, and be prepared to fight with the locals when you get there. Leave the idiots who haven't prepared behind.
     
  18. Fung Koo

    Fung Koo >:|Angry Beaver|: <

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    I do my best! :D

    Universally? Or you mean in this specific case? Claiming the uneducated ignorant and poor are victims by universal default is awfully arrogant, no? Just because you can't read and don't have a job doesn't mean your brain eyes and hands don't work. Self-preservation aught to kick in at some point despite being considered an economic burden to society.

    On "Idol Gives Back" they featured an extremely poor region of Kentucky (or someplace) where people had no jobs, no education, and crappy homes. It was all about how these people needed education to improve their situations. Yet every time they showed these people's houses, their lawns were covered in shit -- old rusty pickups, hubcaps, dilapidated swing sets, piles of milk crates and old tires.... you know the look. Highway 9 through Maine is riddled with such lawns. But just because you can't read and don't have a job doesn't mean your lawn needs to be covered in shit. Your roof shouldn't leak if you live on a property with trees and mud. Cut one of 'em down and patch your roof you lazy sod. And plant yourself a damn vegetable garden while you're complaining that you're hungry.

    Sheesh...

    Yet they have the right to vote and protest and force their representative government to find a way to look after them. They have the capability to build up earthen walls around their properties. They have the right to take action, and the ability to look after themselves.

    Oh I know. I think that Habitat is an excellent organization. I think alleviating people's suffering is great and important. I just question calling these particular people victims.

    They always are the ones to go first, eh? Once upon a time they were the fastest to come back, too. But not with modern housing regulations and the illegality of "squatting."
     
  19. BrianC

    BrianC bmalone.blogspot.com

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    G, next time you're going to go do something like this let me know in advance. I might be able to join in.
     
  20. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

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    Since I've returned, so many people have been asking me about it. I think maybe I've started something here, in my own little piece of the world. My IT manager has just planned to go to New Orleans in August with his son and wife, and they volunteered for one week at Habitat. I'm hoping now to go again in September with my whole extended family, about 20 people, to continue to work in the 9th ward and build Habitat houses. So I'll be happy to let you know when, and maybe you'll join us there!!