Fiona, one of the creators of the airfarespledge, writes to say:
“After seeing the news about Hurricane Katrina, which had some pretty graphic pictures showing the damage, I thought of how I could help....Being a fan of Jazz music and knowing a lot about New Orleans, Harry Connick Jr was the first person I thought of, I found connick.com to see if they had a donation or fund raiser link. A few of the members were donating their time and money, and being an international person, donating money, just didn't work for me.
“My pledge was originally to raise some money to help pay for airfares to get to New Orleans to help with Hurricane Katrina Relief organisation CERMT (Emergency Relief Massage Therapy). By now I had many internet friends from the US who helped out a lot, donating either emotional help or money, but one person, donated his flight points to fly us, first and business class to the US. Of course I thought it was too good to be true, but, it just happend that the gentleman was extremly helpful and he arranged most of our flight arragements. Including meeting us at the Dallas airport on the way through.
“Unfortunately two months later, the plans with CERMT fell through as they were not efficient enough to help, we had these wonderful donations and no where to go. After searching through several internet sites and many e-mails, we finally found an organisation that were stable enough to match our plans, Hands on USA. It was stressful enough for me because I have never travelled overseas and didn't know what to expect and I have a son, who I was leaving for one month, which was January, the month of his birthday!
“As for the experience...I will describe it as an emotional rollercoaster. Our accomodation was "Camping out" in winter colder than we've had before, which, we didn't mind at all. As long as we didn't have to bring our own tent. We helped many devastated families by cleaning up, helped stranded animals and most of all helped the people that were helping others, by massage and relaxation, we even found ourselves in the kitchen, cooking for 100 + people. We also took part in the Martin Luther King jr parade, holding an Australian flag, as we marched down the streets of MS. People were crying and at the same time cheering and thanking everyone from different US states who marched. We had no time to travel, but we took the opportunity to going on a road trip to New York for a couple of days, where I saw snow for the first time. We stopped off at Los Angeles on the way home for one night, but that was it. We had plans to visit a group of volunteers in New Orleans, but, they let us down and left us out in the open in the lower 9th ward, which was not safe. We were lucky to get some accomodation for the night though.
“There is so much more to this story, but, if you are wanting to find out what we did, you can contact me through my pledge and I will respond from you there.
“I still keep in contact with people and have a friendship and would once again, like to thank everyone who helped.”