Saturday, November 19, 2005

11/15 Tired

Up at 5:30 because of someone else's alarm. Re-arranged all my piles of papers in the portfolio I bought last night at Walmart. We have to carry lots of "stuff" with and books for the kids, and candy of course. And also tons of paper and brochures for informational purposes, in both English and Spanish.

Marcia, Tracy and I got to the center by 7:50 and were assigned to our teams. I was on Team 6 again at my request.

We went to another neighborhood today...and I finally felt valuable. I was able to communicate in Spanish a little. Certainly not fluently, but enough that I helped some people. Tu necessitas ayuda ahora? Do you need anything now? The Red Cross Disaster Teams give money for immediate and urgent needs--not just because people are poor. It's very difficult to say no when you see how people live. We do give them lists of other resources, though, and that's something.

I was finally able to find some neighbors who could interpret for us. (Names changed for confidentiality.) Mariana, who works for the city as a bus driver. She is from Costa Rica and was an immense help. Then I found little Clara. Don't know why she wasn't in school but I didn't care. Was just grateful for her help.

A colleague was able to find Consuelo from Colombia who helped with another family. And I really was able to use my counseling skills today.

It certainly is a wonderful feeling to be able to help people. I know that the situation is different several weeks after the disaster. For example, most people are out of the "shock phase." But it doesn't mean their needs have lessened.

Most of the folks have been seen by FEMA personnel. But they have fallen through the cracks for other services.

People are so gracious and welcoming. A grateful man gave us all water and also Cafe Cubano. Even though I'm not suppposed to have caffeine, I couldn't say no. Delicious. Without exception we felt that we were in the right place. Yesterday there were a few people who wouldn't answer the door. Fear? Most likely--because many don't have any papers, and are afraid they will be deported. We make sure to tell everyone that we are not the government, that we are just here to help and will not turn anyone in.

It's awesome seeing absolute joy when we say we are giving them money as a gift from the American people. A pure gift.

In the afternoon we drove through another neighborhood looking for blue tarps on roofs--the sign that there are leaks and that we can offer help.

My favorite line of the day--from Fred: Jeri, hurry. We need an interpreter. Muy bueno.

Hit my first real "bump in the road." After work the team leader called me aside and said that the driver of the van I'd been in said blah blah blah blah blah. And so I explained blah blah blah and felt I'd been misrepresented. I was doing what I'd been told to do by the MH people. Other workers weren't aware of the directive I'd gotten (give food and water to clients). No big deal but I just hate it when a person has a complaint and doesn't say it directly--instead going over your head. Secondly it showed that YES, people do need a day off. Not me yet, but after seven days I will find myself a nice pool and a nice internet cafe and veg out. The crabby guy is way overdue for a day off.

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