Christmas Cheer for Hurricane Victims: South Central Region
Hurricane Laura, a deadly Category 4 hurricane, the strongest on record to make landfall, devastated the state of Louisiana on August 27, 2020. The area was struck again by Hurricane Delta, a Category 2 storm, which made landfall on October 9, 2020. Across the region, roofs and walls were damaged; trees were snapped, twisted and broken; steel poles and lamp-posts were bent; street signs were torn from the ground. For several weeks, residents in the Lake Charles area were without power. In response, the South Central Region of Sri Sathya Sai International Organization (SSSIO)-USA, in collaboration with the National Disaster Relief Team (NDRT), have been working closely with a few churches and organizations in the area since September 2020 to provide much needed relief supplies periodically to affected communities.
In particular, during the December holiday season, Sai volunteers across the region brought some cheer to these communities by distributing toys and food supplies. More than 500 toys and essential supplies such as canned food, diapers, paper goods and trash bags were donated and shipped by SSSIO members across the United States between mid-November and mid-December 2020. Sai volunteers in Austin and Houston, TX packaged these items for subsequent distribution.
Seven Sai volunteers participated in the first distribution that took place on December 11, 2020 at the South Cameron High School, a public primary and secondary school in Cameron Parish, LA. The school serves students from the Cameron, Creole, and Grand Chenier communities. The school children were treated to a short Christmas holiday program and received toys as gifts, a Christmas stocking stuffed with candies and a handmade Christmas card. They also viewed a short video of carols performed by Sai Spiritual Education (SSE) children from the Sri Sathya Sai Center of South Houston, and Christmas wishes sent by SSSIO members. Staff members at the school each received a gift package consisting of a blanket, a mug, an ornament and a box of cookies. The visit to Cameron was coordinated with the Lions Club of Cameron. The President of the Lions Club expressed her gratitude for the generous gifts for the students and the staff from the SSSIO members from all over the country. The visit was covered in the local newspaper, The Cameron Parish Pilot. Volunteers also traveled to another location where food bags consisting of beans, corn, pasta, pasta sauce, and canned mixed vegetables were assembled and distributed to over 70 families.
Additional toy and food distributions were arranged at three churches in the Lake Charles area and two churches in DeQuincy, LA on December 19, 2020. Items provided at these locations totaled 400 toys, over 300 blankets, and more than 1,000 pounds of food and consumer goods. Ten Sai volunteers helped with the delivery of these items. Each of these churches were deeply appreciative of their efforts. Pastor Jackson at First United Pentecostal Church expressed his gratitude: “Thank you so much for coming and being such as blessing to a community that is hurting not only from COVID, but the aftermath of Hurricane Laura and Hurricane Delta. Because of people like you who have a good heart and love others that you do not even know, we are able to help needy people in our community.”