This blog post is written by generationOn Youth Advisory Council member and 2016 Kindness Ambassador Elise Jackson, of Plaquemine, LA. She has been both affected and actively supporting those affected by the recent Louisiana flooding.
An announcement comes of the school loudspeaker: School will be closing today August 10, 2016 at Noon. Please contact all parents regarding pickup.
I have a slight smirk and grin, but also a dab of queasiness in my stomach. Not fully understanding why school was closing, I gathered my things and waited for my ride. My parents explained the schools are closing due to the rain, though my life continued to press onward, with no second thoughts regarding this normal Louisiana rain.
The next day, my brother awakens from a nap with the question, "Is it still raining"? I immediately joke with him by saying, "God is cleansing the earth." The next morning rain continues to fall. My mom receives a phone call with the caller asking if it is flooding at our house. My mother panics slightly by asking the caller, "why? What is going on?"
This is when I realized our beloved capital, Baton Rouge, was in trouble. All new channels are now focused on the flooding in Louisiana, with reports saying the continuous downpours sent at least six river gauges to record levels. The governor reported 10,000 people were in shelters as a result of widespread flooding. Nearly 20,000 people were rescued by participating agencies and volunteers and there were seven flood-related deaths. Nearly 40,000 homes, schools and businesses were destroyed, leaving thousands homeless. Our local medical center had to evacuate 40 patients. AT&T Wireless phone service was halted. In the process of checking houses for people on rooftops and trees, rescuers have also collected hundreds of pets. Many of the surrounding towns have experienced widespread power outages.
It was estimated that rainfall over southern Louisiana equated to more than 4 trillion gallons of water.
Despite my many tears, fears for my family and others, and my heavy heart, cleanup had to begin. My family, Scouting group and Leadership group helped by donating clothing, preparing meals, picking up trash, delivering water and giving of our time to those in dire need. My mother and I prepared meals for approximately 25 families who were staying in temporary homes while theirs were repaired; my Venturing 24 Scout group was able to help the local sheriff's office collect 78 cases of water from residents of Iberville to distribute to residents of the Iberville Parish, who were without power and water. On August 17, my 4-H Leadership group was able to bring laughter and smiles to the children in one of the local shelters! Our Jr. Leaders delivered supplies (toys, stuffed animals, coloring books and colors), played games with the kids and sorted and folded clothing donations and many other items.
Given that many school facilities, businesses and homes were damaged by the floodwaters and remain closed, the community has chosen to come together because this storm has affected our siblings, parents, teachers, ministers, mayors, friends and cousins. Many people whose homes have flooded are experiencing feelings of anger, disappointment and frustration, but Louisiana has a proud community of people committed to helping their fellow man survive with this "thang" called Louisiana Love. Many other youth could replicate my volunteer efforts by joining local teen clubs (generationOn, Youth Volunteer Corp, 4-H, Jr. Leadership and Scouting groups) that focus on volunteering and challenging youth to do more for the community in which they reside.
I am often encouraged by my parents to give the best of me; therefore when I volunteer or take on tasks big or small, I believe this to be my duty as a human and faithful servant of God.
When I look in the mirror, my smile is the best of me; therefore if I can touch any person or animal with just a smile, then I am willing to do just that.