Introduction What inspired me to conduct research on hurricane Katrina Living Houston at the time of the disaster Volunteering at Reliant Arena during the disaster Video and photo documenting the event Documentary and short “A Region of Survivors” and “Meet Wayne” (used in educational and social awareness contexts) I. Slide One: Virtual Volunteering: Hurricane Katrina’s Impact and Women’s Resolve. 1. “Virtual Volunteering” is a term I use to define the ways in which the idea of community activism/grassroots organizing is conducted via the World Wide Web. 2. The pictures on this slide are the actual Internet sources that I have researched over this past semester and will talk about in detail today.
My research focuses on 3 main categories of Virtual Volunteering Katrina Blogs Katrina newsgroups Katrina Internet forums *all of which I will refer to as virtual spaces 1. Virtual spaces are fascinating pieces of historical evidence that reveal the impact of hurricane Katrina, and more significantly the integrity of women who run these blogs, newsgroup, and sites—and undeniable resolve of women, mainly single mothers—the largest population of people who utilize these sources as means of finding assistance beyond FEMA and TANF.
I have highlighted some important questions to think about concerning virtual volunteering. (read questions from the slide) “ Where do we go from here?”—fairly uncharted territory in terms of new Katrina research
Hurricane Katrina makes its grand entrance. I want to give some numbers to show how devastating Katrina was and still is Category 5 storm hits the Gulf on August 29, 2005 Roughly 15 million people were somehow affected by the storm Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama are considered “direct impact states”—these states will be the focus of my research geographically Roughly 400,000 jobs were lost as a result of Katrina The total number of deaths still vary but certainly exceed 1,000 Approximately $85 billion federal (not including private) dollars has been spent—and still counting.
I’m sure we’ve all heard to some extent how the impact of our leaders have failed the survivors. According to “The House Committee Report on A Failure of Initiative” (read from slide)
Even gov’t officials lack confidence in FEMA (read excerpt) The federal government passed a House bill extending TANF (Temporary Aid for Needy Families) benefits to families in the TANF Emergency Response and Recovery Act of 2005 TANF (Temporary Aid for Needy Families) is provided funds in the form of loans to the “direct impact states” and offering a contingency fund of $1.9 billion in aid if/when the initial funds run out—as of 2007, those contingency funds have been exhausted.
Despite it’s overall lack of preparedness, FEMA has contributed significantly to relief effort—a job it is supposed to do might I add. As a member of KatrinasAngels networking blog, I receieve messages from the listserv regarding FEMA trailers. Approximately, 80,000 people are still living in FEMA trailers in Mississippi alone—and as more and more survivors go back to their homes, more and more FEMA trailers are being abandoned. As of last month, FEMA was trying to sell the trailers—most of the time FEMA is selling them off for considerable less amount of money than they were bought for—much of that $4.2 billion dollars for housing continues to go to waste.
While FEMA is dealing with it’s shortcomings, survivors have found ways outside of FEMA and TANF. Enter Virtual Volunteering As you will see in the following slides, many survivors (single women) have expressed frustration with the lack of aid being provided by FEMA and TANF—this frustration is echoed throughout many of the Katrina blogs (read the 3 main categories of virtual volunteering off the slide)
My research is mainly focused on the motivations contributing to virtual volunteering The unique aspect about virtual volunteering is that the line blurs between who is the volunteer and who is being assisted. What I’ve found is that the survivors (those utilizing/accessing these resources) are too volunteers. That is they are volunteering what time and resources they have to other families. My thesis is four-fold (read from the slide QUICKLY!!)
(Read mission statement) The Katrina blog that I am focusing on is RealPeopleRelief.com This is a blog run by Leslie, a woman who I have been in direct contact with over the past few month. (Go to the site and explain how the site is set up) Click on “Ginger’s” profile
(Read the mission statement) The Katrina Forum/Group that I am focusing on is a Yahoo group founded by women who felt it was necessary to create a forum for Katrina volunteers and survivors. In order to utilize this group, you must join and then be accepted by the groups moderator. (Make sure to be logged in). (Explain the photos)
Finally, there are the Katrina Newsgroups and Websites. These sources are a bit different because they mainly act as information sites that link’s a person to other blogs and forums. Beyond Katrina (www.hurricane-katrina.org) is the most widely recognize of all the sources I’ve looked at. This website, run by Margaret Siazan, won the “New Media” award from the Research Society for New Communication. Furthermore, Beyond Katrina, posts articles and essays from researchers, scholars, and journalist—an aspect that you will not see in the blogs or forums HurricaneKatrinaRelief.com is a site run by a 17 year old highschool student, Brian Kurpis, from New Jersey. Last year, Brian posted my documentary to his website and he has since continued to do great work with his site.
(Read directly from slide and improvise girl!!!) I couldn’t help but notice that all of the sites I looked at were not run by, moderated, or published by any persons of color. This is only significant because the majority of displaced survivors of Katrina were African-American. I’m wondering what this says about the dichotomy of the volunteer and the needy in virtual volunteering. I believe virtual volunteering will continue to be a dynamic and transformative grassroots function within community service. I would like to see, however, a more diversified outlook in terms of African Americans and other minorities of color being the one’s heading some of these sites and blogs. It really begs the question regarding accessibility. I’m not quite certain how many minorities of color are being helped by these blogs—because it is very hard to tell on the Internet if a picture is not provided. But it is my hope that African American women and children (the majority of survivors of Katrina) are too being helped and empowered.
Virtual Volunteers: Hurricane Katrina's Impact and Women's Resolve
Virtual Volunteers: Hurricane Katrina’s Impact and Women’s Resolve Tara L. Conley MA Candidate in Women’s Studies Texas Woman’s University 2007
Research Synopsis Research focuses on hurricane Katrina networking relief blogs, newsgroups, and Internet forums that are operated and utilized mainly by women and single mothers in search of assistance for their families. Virtual spaces as fascinating pieces of historical evidence that reveal not only the horrific impact of hurricane Katrina, but also the ineffectiveness of government-sponsored assistant programs like TANF and FEMA. Focuses on Katrina survivors, specifically single mothers, and how they have found ways and means beyond government assistance. If anything, these networking forums provide a place where women can connect with other women and families.
Questions To Consider How has the impact of hurricane Katrina contributed to grassroots organizing such as virtual volunteerism—a new(er) form of activism? How have FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and TANF (Temporary Assistance For Needy Families) contributed to aiding survivors, post-Katrina? What motivates Katrina survivors, particularly women and single mothers, to seek assistance beyond FEMA and TANF? What are the various types of new communication tools being used by Katrina survivors (single mothers)? Where do we go from here?
Enter Katrina Hurricane Katrina (a category 5 storm) hits land on August 29, 2005 Approximately 15 million people were affected by the storm due to economic hardships, evacuations, gas prices, and drinking water contamination. ( www.hurricanekatrinarelief.com) According to the Grassley-Baucus Bill, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama (the only states included in the New TANF Bill providing emergency funds) are described as “direct impact states”. An estimated 400,000 jobs were lost, leaving the Gulf Coast region in crisis. (www.hurricanekatrinarelief.com) Estimated death tolls vary, but exceeds 1,000. As of August 2007, approximately $8.3 billion federal has been spent for Katrina rebuilding efforts in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama (not including the private sector and international contributions). (www.fema.gov )
Federal, State, and Local Response? According to The House Committee Report: A Failure of Initiative ”the following contributed to a lack of effective response: Secretary Michael Chertoff acted, “late, ineffectively, or not at all”. “The White House failed to de- conflict varying damage assessments and discounted information that ultimately proved accurate.” Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin “delayed ordering a mandatory evacuation in New Orleans until 19 hours before landfall”.• FEMA is singled out in the report as “a serious troubled and unprepared agency”.
Post-Katrina Problems Linger On… FEMA and TANF contributions to Katrina survivors after the stormFEMA TANF“[I]t is very unclear whether H.R. 3672, the TANF Emergency Response and Recovery Act of 200:FEMA has any plans in place to provideongoing assistance beyond the next month or Provides assistance to families affected bytwo. The needs of hundreds of thousands of hurricane Katrina through the Temporarypeople will likely endure for a much longer Assistance for Needy Families. Signed intoperiod than that. FEMA has never law by President Bush on September 21, 2005.administered a program of this nature forsuch a large number of people who are spread Funds (*in the form of loans) provided:over such a large geographic area and who are Alabama ($18.7 million)likely to remain displaced for such a longperiod of time. Whether FEMA is up to such Louisiana ($32.8 million)a task for a period beyond the initial weeks is Mississippi ($17.4 million)unclear” (Greenstein, October 2005) *states are not require to pay interest on, or repay loans
More on FEMA contributions (One Year After Katrina) FEMA sheltered Katrina survivors nationwide in 85,000 hotel rooms, pending transition to longer-term sheltering. $650 million FEMA paid for hotel and motel rooms for Katrina evacuees nationwide. $890.9 million paid in assistance to Katrina evacuees from Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana currently listing a Texas address. Overall, FEMA has paid $4.2 billion for housing assistance to 950,000 applicants for housing assistance $1.3 billion to 550,000 applicants in Louisiana and Mississippi for homes that were inaccessible to inspectors due to extensive flooding. www.fema.gov
Survivors Find Ways and Means Beyond FEMA and TANF Women and single mothers account for a large portion of grassroots organizing on the Internet. Single mothers and families continue to benefit from virtual volunteering. 3 Major Categories of Katrina- related virtual volunteering on the Internet Blogs Forums/Groups Newsgroups and Websites
Motivations?What motivates women and single mothers to organize and find ways andmeans beyond government assistance? • Direct impact of hurricane Katrina • Lack of preparedness and long-term support from local, state, and federal government 3. Gender roles and expectations of women 4. Technological advancements and Internet access
Katrina BlogsReal People Reliefhttp://realpeoplerelief.blogspot.com/“Real People Relief is for individuals, families and groups who wish to help a person or family directly, with no ‘middle man.’” –Leslie, Blog Moderator
Katrina Forums/GroupsKatrina Angels Action Forumhttp://groups.yahoo.com/group/KatrinasAngelsinActionForum/• “Katrinas Angels offers resource coordination to communities affected by natural disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes. This forum was created to provide information in a timely manner and to list events supporting relief and rebuilding efforts around the United States.” Janet Arp, Moderator
Katrina Newsgroups/WebsitesBeyond Katrinawww.hurricane-katrina.org• “To inspire recovery, transformation & new vision through the deeper wisdom of crisis.” Margaret Saizan, publisher.Hurricane Katrina Reliefwww.hurricanekatrinarelief.com• “created to be a permanent source of information about Hurricane Katrina, emergency preparation, and more.” Brian Kurpis, founder.
Where Do We Go From Here? The need for ongoing research on how the Internet is helping/aiding Katrina survivors overtime. Can/will these virtual sources exhaust themselves over time? If possible, how might we work to prevent possible extinction? How can these virtual spaces continue to evolve? Researchers and scholars need to continue to specifically focus on how low-income families and women of color are being helped and helping others with relief efforts via the Internet. Lack of accessibility and workable knowledge to/of the Internet? The majority of displaced survivors I worked with and volunteered for are African- American women and families. How might other low-income families and families of color benefit from virtual volunteering? Continue researching how many sites are run by women of color, including single mothers—and if these Internet sources are also being acknowledged, accessed, and utilized in the same way the sources I focused on. Other blogs by women of color: http://brownfemipower.com/?cat=19