Narah Cano, who attended a Your Town Alabama workshop four years ago, talks about what’s going on currently in New Orleans and how the Your Town Alabama philosophy is helping:
I decided to return to New Orleans, Louisiana to help in the recover effort post hurricanes and discovered I was in a frontier city. Although many things have improved, mail service directly to homes now, support personnel returned to many businesses and industries, thereby reducing the amount of time everyone had to wait everywhere for anything. A one hour wait was usual for ordering at fast food establishments which closed promptly at 5:00 p.m., post offices, banks, grocery stores, etc.
As a participant of “Your Town” four years ago, I just wanted to report on the progress that has occurred in Central City, a district of New Orleans which is blighted, crime infested (five shootings at 10:00 a.m. three streets over) and seemingly not progressing any where but down economically speaking.
I became the executive director of a non profit organization which provided management and technical assistance to 37 non profit organizations to assist them re-establish operations post hurricanes. All non profits have been effected either through the loss of physical property or human capital.
This is the story of how four non profit organizations helped to revitalize and promote economic development to Central City in the middle of New Orleans. Two non profits were located in a restored historic building and housed the management and technical assistance for fledging entrepreneurs and recovering non profits. One organization provided entrepreneurial training and the other M&TA assistance for NPO’s. One block away another organization established a food service industry training facility were at risk youth could learn not only the intricacies of food service but also life skills and employment placement opportunities. A third led the Central City Merchants Economic Development Association.
The combined efforts of these organizations breathed new life into the neighborhood and you can see the progress on a daily basis. The one good thing that occurred as a result of the hurricanes was that non profit organizations were forced to work with each other and collaborate! The networking opportunities are tremendous. We have a coalition of over 500 hundred organizations that network and discuss how to address the problems we encounter on a weekly basis.
We have used the training I received at “Your Town” and the progress is visible and palpable! This is just the beginning the progress is slower than I liked but it’s happening. At this point I want to formally state that if it wasn’t for the non profit organizations and the churches stepping up and providing services that our local, state and federal failed and still do not provide adequately, we would still be waiting for assistance in the recovery efforts.
We have learned not to depend on city, state or federal entities, but to look to ourselves and the non profit organizations to move our efforts forward. The continued commitment by the citizens of the United States is one of the most moving and inspiring efforts of our country. Recovery is a slow process some neighborhoods still look “abandoned” while others are thriving. Our ancestors in New Orleans had the sense to build on high ground, when men decided to build on low ground this is were the flooding occurred, also remember it was the levees breeching that caused the damage.
Additionally, if the rest of the United States falls into recession the greater New Orleans region will not….due to the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on rebuilding efforts. Recovery will take more than ten years.
I wanted to encourage everyone in Alabama that you have a beautiful state, historic buildings and homes and it is populated by some of the gracious individuals that I have been privileged to know and inter act with. Never doubt the power of one person deciding to make a difference and that “can do” attitude spreading throughout the population of concerned citizens to improve the quality of life. Thank you for your time and attention.