On Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Louisiana coast with a direct hit on New Orleans. Idyllwild resident Karla Leopold led a team of art therapists to an evacuation center just north of Baton Rouge to help Katrina survivors, many of them children, to express and externalize the trauma they had experienced through the process of creating art. Leopold’s mission then was to help survivors process the emotional and physical pain they had experienced by getting it out of them and onto a page or into a constructed piece of art.
She returns again to Baton Rouge, this time when the city itself has been hard hit by torrential rainfall and flooding, and many of its residents are homeless and in shelters. As she did before, she will assist Sister Judith Brun of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation to use art to capture and chronicle the experiences of those who have lost homes, jobs and hope.
When asked about conditions in Baton Rouge, Brun said, “How’s it going here? No one knows. There are miles and miles of family possessions piled on curbs. How strong can families remain in this journey that is so all-consuming?”
Said Leopold, “We need your help. Once again the state of Louisiana is hit by disaster with more than 100,000 people affected. Many of these people are the same people relocated [to the Baton Rouge area] after Hurricane Katrina 11 years ago.”
The Red Cross calls the Louisiana flooding the worst disaster since Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast of the U.S. in 2012. Thirteen people have died, 60,000 homes have been damaged and property losses have passed $20.7 billion. Nearly 7 trillion gallons of rain pummeled Louisiana between Aug. 8 and 14. That is enough to fill more than 10.4 million Olympic-size swimming pools.
“The rainfall is unprecedented,” said Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, with some parishes having experienced more than 32 inches of rain in one day. Thirty thousand people have been rescued from flooded homes, as have more than 1,000 pets. The Red Cross said 7,000 people are in shelters and thousands more are without power.
And after the rain, and when floodwaters begin to subside, lingering dampness in walls, wood, carpets and homes provides the perfect host environment for mold to spread, posing serious health risks, especially to infants, children, seniors and any persons with immune deficiencies.
Leopold said she and Brun need art supplies of all kinds: paper, markers, brushes, glue, glue sticks, crayons, duct tape, watercolors, plastic water containers, paper towels, beads, yarn and knitting needles. “Any art supplies or funds will be appreciated,” said Leopold. “Art has proven to be a powerful tool in helping families and children during difficult times. I will be joining [Brun] … to train and begin art therapy programs for children in the shelters. What supplies we don’t use will go to the schools in the area, many of them flooded.”
Supplies and donations can be mailed to Sister Judith Brun, 304 Laurel, #3D, Baton Rouge, LA 70801. Donations may be made to the Community Initiatives Foundation, Brun’s nonprofit, www.cifbr.com, and mailed to the same address.