Sunday, October 02, 2005


What did we do? Many from our mostly medical and health care related caravan spent most of their time at the free community clinic that we helped set up. The tasks there included treating patients, organizing donated supplies, cleaning up debris in the area, coordinating the clinic to function smoothly, doing home visits with folks who couldn’t make it to the clinic, driving people to the nearest hospital for certain things, speaking with the media and the military, and making food for the clinic staff. The clinic has now seen over a thousand patients.Todd and I did a variety of other things as well. Garbage hauling, truck unloading, phone answering, bathroom cleaning and fliering about the clinic and where to get free hot meals and basic supplies. Todd took a lot of pictures and spent more time than he wanted uploading them to this blog. I did a fair amount of massage and spent a lot of time listening. I cried too. On our last night, Todd made a wonderful dinner for everyone. We met many wonderful local people and volunteers from all over.

There’s a lot of energy going in many directions at Common Ground. Every day at least one team ventures out of Algiers and either scouts or helps out another area where people are not getting outside help. This is critically important work. The clinic operates every day, all day. When we left Algiers, folks were starting to come to the communications center to get help searching online for family and filling out FEMA forms.
At Malik’s, trucks arrive daily and the supplies must be unloaded, sorted, and distributed. And there are the tasks of making the whole operation run smoothly: cleaning, doing laundry, cooking, refilling coolers with water, getting ice, answering the phone, etc.
People arrive at and depart from Common Ground every day. The length of stay varies from a couple days to open-ended. The yard of Malik’s neighbor is a tent city where many volunteers sleep. Others sleep in Malik’s house, his front yard, inside the communications center (Malik’s neighbor’s place), or the clinic. Around 40 volunteers were accommodated in these ways while we were there. More housing is being arranged now. Just to note: Malik’s back yard is being used for supply storage.

I don’t think Malik and Sharon (Malik’s wonderful and tireless partner) expected to be in the center of a force like what is now known as the Common Ground Collective. They responded to the hurricane by distributing food and within a few weeks it has grown dramatically into a community building and relief effort serving Algiers and numerous communities beyond. What’s so wonderful is that it’s all grassroots, people to people support.


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