Extended Disaster Relief pledges to raise and sustain awareness on campus and in the community about disasters, to provide monetary and physical support to the areas and victims of those disasters through the crisis phase and into recovery, and to be socially responsible in the aid that we give and the local organizations we partner with. While we continue our work for communities near the Gulf Coast that were affected by Hurricane Katrina, more recently we have become involved with relief outside our borders.
Extended Disaster Relief (EDR) is a student-run organization operating on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. We mobilized in the days immediately following Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of the Gulf Coast on August 29th, 2005. At that time, we felt secure in the knowledge that our campus community would reach out to the Gulf Coast communities in the form of monetary and physical aid over the next few weeks. We felt no such security, however, when we tried to imagine what that aid would look like after a few months, after a year, and after news of the disaster had dropped out of the media. It was this fear—the fear that the floods of aid pouring into the area would soon turn into trickles and eventually dry up—that prompted EDR’s core group of students to mobilize.
EDR is dedicated to providing long-term aid to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. We do this in two ways: we hold fundraising and awareness events on UNC campus and in the larger Chapel Hill/Carrboro community, and we take work trips down to the Gulf Coast.
In the fall of 2005, we hosted a “Middle-School-themed” dance on campus to raise money for the Gulf Coast. At the dance, students could buy their friends paper flower corsages, take pictures at our decorated photo booth, drink Kool-aid, and break it down to their favorite 90s jams. We also built a miniature model house in the pit, the planks of which individual students or groups bought, symbolizing UNC’s participation in rebuilding the Gulf Coast.
Over Thanksgiving Break 2005, we took 18 students and faculty members on the first work trip to the Gulfport, Mississippi. Our work was primarily debris removal because, even three months after the hurricane, this phase of the rebuilding process had barely begun. Although every aspect of the trip was valuable, building relationships with the homeowners we worked for was the most rewarding.
In order to reach our fundraising totals for the year (over $16,000), we conducted letter writing campaigns during both the fall and spring semesters (2005-2006). We also circulated wallet-sized envelopes challenging students to donate money on a weekly basis, symbolizing a long term commitment to disaster relief.
In the spring of 2006, EDR won a Youth Venture Grant from MTV to help; money from this grant facilitated work trips. In mid-February we held a Valentine’s Day Dance, and couples came out for an evening of dancing and romancing to aid Katrina victims. In March we partnered with Ebony Reader/Onyx Theatre and hosted a Spoken Word evening that addressed issues of poverty and racism—issues that cannot be ignored when rebuilding Louisiana and Mississippi—and also raised money for our cause though a live date auction. Big names on campus, SGA members, athletes, etc. donated their time and excited bidders spilled their wallets in the name of Katrina Relief. In late April we held our biggest event of the semester, a benefit show called “Rock to Relief.” “Rock to Relief” included performances by various beloved a capella groups like the Clef Hangers, the Achordants, and Cadence, energetic bands like Sweater Weather and Caravan, and talented dance groups like Mezmerhythm, and Star Heels. This was by far our most successful event of the year, and we hope to make it an annual event!
Spring semester also included two more work trips down to Mississippi. In March and then again in May, we traveled to Biloxi, just east of Gulfport and Long Beach, to work with Grassroots Volunteer Network in rebuilding the town. On these trips we did a lot more gutting and debris-removal, but were also able to do some de-molding, roofing, and reconstruction. Like our first trip, however, the best part was meeting and building relationships with the people whose lives had been shaken and destroyed by the hurricane.