Thursday, September 15, 2005


Vietnamese Community Gets Help

Myhanh has been wanting to know more about the local Vietnamese community. We had assumed that they would be getting left out of the distribution of food, water, clothes, etc. The photo on the right shows that we were wrong. After a couple of tries of bringing food that was rejected (macaroni and cheese? lasagne? these folks are all lactose intolerant) they are now brought free hot meals each evening by a Christian group, Operation Compassion.

A Vietnamese doctor new to the community, Dr. Han, is seeing patients in the back of the Buddhist temple. He's being helped by several nurses from the hospital.

We just heard this evening that Dr. Han has a family emergency and has to leave for Tennessee. I'll be covering his clinic in the morning, and another Vietnamese doctor will take over in the afternoon.

There is a national Vietnamese-language TV network--this is their truck, come from California to do video news on the plight of the Vietnamese in the Gulf. Myhanh gave an interview. She tells me that they wanted to do the 'if it bleeds it leads' game, but she kept coming back to the great spirit of the community--and to the relevance of these immigrants' previous refugee experience to this one.

You remember the story of Billy? I've now heard versions of it a number of times, from middle-aged men who were imprisoned in Vietnam after the war, and managed to escape from Vietnam. Katrina was a pretty minor experience in comparison, except that they are now middle-aged, and have families and businesses. It's going to be very hard to start over. Perhaps 90% of the Gulf coast shrimp fishermen are now Vietnamese. Many of the boats were destroyed by Katrina. Even before Katrina, the shrimpers were being underpriced by Asian shrimp industries with huge aquafarms and shrimp boats with no regulations. 'Little Saigon' with its restaurants and shops is now in ruins; will it rise again from the rubble? Will there be an economic basis for the Vietnamese to stay in this area?

This evening we met a young Vietnamese doctor who is part of a small Vietnamese evangelical church across the street from the Buddhist temple and the Catholic church. Doctor Do and his wife (who speaks with a very strong Southern accent, which Myhanh can't get used to) want to set up a larger medical clinic under a canopy in the parking lot of one of the Protestant churches. He has some potential volunteer physicians and nurses from Gulfport Memorial Hospital, where he works. They have taken in two families into their house, and there was a lot of heated discussion over whether one of the extended families would accept being evacuated to South Carolina. Mom clearly is concerned for her kids, but in this culture it's Dad who makes the decision. We'll see.

Another story we've heard repeated many times: the families who climbed into the attics of their one-story homes while the flood rose, and thought they might die. I haven't heard of another baby being set in a cooler to survive the flood; but there were about 50 visiting people from California who took shelter in the attic of the Buddhist temple, hours after celebrating the opening of a new part of the building.

I'll try to blog tomorrow about our trips yesterday and today to the west of Biloxi, in Long Beach and Bay St. Louis; and more on our cooperation with the Red Cross effort.

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