UC Berkeley News


Gulf Coast projects for the long haul

30 August 2006

Preserving Crescent City culture
Berkeley-led research team gives 'voice' to displaced Katrina survivors through oral narratives, poetry, and prose
As Berkeley students, following last year's devastating Gulf Coast hurricane, formed the Cal Katrina Relief coalition and raised more than $28,000 in donations, campus researchers and experts meanwhile began to provide all manner of expertise and services in the Gulf Coast - from vision tests and glasses for those displaced by Katrina to engineering assessments of the levee system.

Mentioned here are three Berkeley-based projects, all of which aim to build ongoing relationships in an area at times overrun, to the dismay of many Katrina survivors, with short-term or even one-time volunteer visits.

Cal Corps Alternative Breaks. Berkeley's student public-service center has received funding from the vice chancellor for student affairs to support relief work on the Gulf Coast through spring 2009. Over last spring break, Cal Corps' student-led Alternative Breaks program took more than 20 students and staff to work on the Gulf Coast.

The Center plans to return this January with a select group of student leaders, faculty, and staff - with the goal of creating sustained partnerships and a base of operations in the area for years to come. For information on this trip or the spring 2007 alternative break, contact Cal Corps Assistant Director Mike Bishop at bishop@berkeley.edu. For campus policy on administrative leave to do Katrina-related volunteer work (in effect through fall semester, with possible extension thereafter), see newscenter.berkeley.edu/goto/volunteer.

Delta Express. Anthropologist Charles Underwood, director of the University-Community Links program, housed in the Graduate School of Education, is working with educators at Louisiana State University to create after-school and out-of-school services for children at the largest FEMA trailer camp, Renaissance Village near Baton Rouge.

"We're talking about how to engage kids who are living in crisis situations," Underwood said from Louisiana, which he's visited repeatedly since the village went up. Participants from Berkeley have helped create an engaging series of activities, including digital storytelling, for the children, some of whom have not been enrolled in formal schooling since fleeing the storm. Delta Express collaborators hope to begin online mentoring, some of it remotely from the Berkeley campus, this fall, to augment face-to-face mentoring at the trailer camp. See www.uclinks.org for background on Delta Express and examples of its curriculum.


Boalt in New Orleans. Legal problems surrounding the Katrina disaster are "almost too many to list," says Dan Farber, Sho Sato Professor of Law at Boalt. Many pertain to causes of the disaster (and thus the planning process), others to the botched emergency response (and the unclear divisions of state and federal authority it revealed), still others to compensation and rebuilding. As a new Aspen Publishers book, Disasters and the Law: Katrina and Beyond (co-authored by Farber and University of Minnesota law professor Jim Chen), rolls off the presses, the law library debuts a "Disasters and the Law" website (newscenter.berkeley.edu/goto/disasters), providing links to relevant materials on the subject.

Meanwhile, Farber and colleagues plan to set Boalt students to work on legal issues on the Gulf Coast, via a program they've dubbed "Boalt in New Orleans." Students will meet with government and community leaders in that city in late September to identify key issues and legal-research projects.

As well, researchers from Berkeley and Tulane University have published "Rebuilding After Katrina," a study documenting widespread violations of the rights of workers involved in the post-Katrina rebuilding effort, particularly undocumented workers. Professor Laurel Fletcher of Boalt's International Human Rights Law Clinic and Eric Stover of the campus's Human Rights Center were involved in the study and report.

A press release and downloadable copy of the report may be found at newscenter.berkeley.edu/goto/rebuilding.

- C.C.