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At a glance: United States of America

Frontline diary: Volunteering to help in Katrina’s aftermath

© UNICEF New York/2005
UNICEF Press Officer Allison Hickling

Allison Hickling, a UNICEF Press Officer, has volunteered to help with the Katrina relief effort.

By Allison Hickling

HOUSTON, 5 September 2005 – Today is Monday. I just got online for the first time and wanted to send a quick update on the scene in Houston. Forgive me for being sparse on the details but I’m pretty tired after a very long and busy day.

I’m part of a general volunteer corps serving the Astrodome and adjacent shelters – the Reliant Arena and Reliant Center – where some 25,000 people have settled for now. Contrary to some media reports, some of the latest evacuees are still being taken here (to the Reliant Center, not the Dome). The sheer number of people here was... and still is... dizzying at times.

On the relief effort, my hat is off to the Houstonians who turned out in the thousands this weekend to help. The shelters are in good condition and basic needs are well covered. Volunteers are manning massive sorting and distribution centres with mounds of supplies that are still being trucked in by the hour – everything from clothes and shoes to diapers and towels. There are piles of toys, games and books for children. Food and water are available in no short supply. It is a tremendous logistical effort that is running efficiently, as many have noted.

None of this is to overlook the obvious trauma here. There is anger, frustration and grief… and I have heard stories of absolute horror and heartbreak. People are grappling with the enormity of their losses, searching desperately for their friends and families, mourning deaths, and slowly emerging from a state of shock to begin the long journey of starting over.

At the same time many people have a growing sense of hope and optimism. Unemployment assistance, job opportunities and subsidized housing are widely available in Houston and there is a huge effort underway to inform people of these and other options to help them get out of the shelters and back on their feet. 

I have to sign off now, but will write again when I get another chance. I am truly glad to be here... I am keeping busy and feel extremely useful.




8 September 2005:
UNICEF Press Officer Alison Hickling says many families are looking for a new future in Houston.

Frontline diary

UNICEF's Allison Hickling is working as a volunteer in Texas. Read her account of the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.

Wednesday 7 September – Searching for loved ones

Tuesday 6 September – Evacuees at the Reliant Center

Monday 5 September - Volunteering to help in Katrina’s aftermath

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