BENEFITING: The St Bernard Project Inc
EVENT DATE: Jun 18, 2013
Help the CH2M HILL Harambee Network and St. Bernard Project bring John and Vanessa's Family Home!
Before Hurricane Katrina devastated their home, John and Vanessa lived happily with their daughter Ebony and her two children on DeSaix Street in New Orleans. Vanessa ran a beauty salon and a day care out of the home to support the family; John had survived a heart attack and was on disability, unable to work. Ebony lived with her parents because she suffered from sickle cell anemia; John and Vanessa helped raise their grandchildren. The house was full of love and often overflowed with members of their five hundred-strong family that was spread throughout New Orleans.
When Hurricane Katrina hit, the family evacuated to John’s son’s home in Texas. They stayed there for several months until FEMA money allowed them to rent a nearby property. They returned to New Orleans as soon as they were allowed to do so. “We lost everything. I cried. Couldn’t save nothing at all, it was devastating.” So began a several years-long process of utilizing Road Home Funds to rebuild, while living between Texas and a FEMA trailer on their property in New Orleans. Unfortunately, due to the presence of formaldehyde in the trailer, both Ebony and Vanessa got sick and could no longer live in it – they had to return to Texas. Sadly, Ebony passed away in 2009 from complications due to her sickle cell anemia; John and Vanessa now raise their grandchildren on their own.
In 2012, John, Vanessa and their grandchildren returned to New Orleans to be closer to the rest of their family. Mounting medical bills (Vanessa has been progressively losing her vision in the years since the storm) and the scope of the rebuilding process eventually consumed all their resources. They cannot afford to rebuild on their own. More than anything, Vanessa says she looks forward to preparing family feasts on Sunday so she can again feed her beloved family in her very own home. Vanessa dreams of “walking into my house when it is finished, on my own, and seeing how beautiful it looks. But even if I can’t see it I’ll be glad to be home.”