Ethnic Communities Rally to Help Katrina Survivors

Daffodil Altan
Date Published: 
September 11, 2005
SAN FRANCISCO -- Ethnic media across the country are tracking an outpouring of support for the various ethnic communities devastated by Hurricane Katrina.


Nearly 20,000 Vietnamese refugees coming in from Mississippi and Louisiana have been welcomed in Houston, reports Radio Saigon in Houston. Although the Astrodome has been the focus of attention for many of the hurricane's evacuees, the Hong Kong strip mall in Houston is serving as a receiving center for the many displaced Vietnamese. Vietnamese were directed to the mall instead of the Astrodome by Vietnamese radio stations like Radio Saigon, which feared a replay of the violence and chaos in the Superdome. At the mall, the displaced were greeted by Vietnamese charity groups as well as ordinary citizens who provided shelter, food and clothing. "We all know what it's like to be refugees," says Thuy Vu, from Radio Saigon Houston.

Although images of Katrina's hardest-hit victims have been gracing the covers of newspapers and television sets across the country, images of mostly foreign~born Latino New Orleans residents who were also caught in the grips of the storm have been scant. Local, federal and consular authorities are having trouble locating Latino victims because many are undocumented, reports the Spanish language daily, Hoy. Authorities say it has been difficult to track victims because many undocumented survivors leave shelters in the early hours of the morning. Honduran Consul Maria Eugenia Lobos says her office has only been able to locate about 100 of the approximately 150,000 Hondurans who reside in New Orleans and the surrounding area.

The Spanish-language daily La Opinion reports that the United States has accepted the help of the Mexican Navy for search and rescue and medical care for Hurricane Katrina-affected persons. Mexico's Secretary of Foreign Relations Luis Ernesto Derbez urged Mexicans in the disaster area not to fear reprisal by authorities over their immigration status. As of Monday, the secretary knew of three Mexican citizens killed by the hurricane, reports La Opinion. New Orleans was home to some 100,000 Mexican people, according to the paper.

Last week the Afghan government pledged $100,000 to Katrina victims, and preparation for food drives and clothing drives are underway at the Afghan Coalition community center in Fremont, Calif., reports the Afghan Journal.

"This is a nice way of removing the stigma of 'terrorist' from Afghans and Muslims," says Habib Zelgai, Director of Lemar-TV. Feeling both sympathy and empathy toward those who have had to flee their homes, the Afghan community has quickly responded, reports the journal. "We understand what it feels like to have to escape your home at the last minute and bring nothing with you but the clothes on your back ... there are no pictures, no birth certificates, nothing but memories to carry," said Rona Popal, executive director of the Afghan Coalition.

Koreans displaced by the storm have found refuge in Korean mom and pop stores in Houston that have been converted into aid centers, reports the Korea Times. Koreans are receiving everything from host families to job leads there. Throughout Houston, some Korean landlords have lowered the rent for those in need, while other Koreans have been paying for the meals of the displaced they meet in restaurants.

Ethnic communities have also expressed anger over the government's slow response to those stranded by Katrina. In New Orleans, one Korean man who returned to the city found his store gutted by looters and blamed the government for not disbursing aid sooner to prevent the looting, reports the Korea Times. Indians fleeing New Orleans are worried about the fate of the Sri Venkata Satyanaryana temple, which has served Hindus in New Orleans since 1994. Priests Thangam Bhattar and Srinivas Lanka have taken shelter with friends in Baton Rouge. New Orleans is home to between 5,000 and 6,000 Indians.

American Indian groups are finding unique ways to come to the aid of tribes affected by Katrina, according to Indian Country Today. The Gros Ventre and Assiniboine tribe of Fort Belknap in Montana sent meat from 10 of the tribe's bison to groups like the Poarch Creek Band in Alabama, the Coushatta Indian Tribe and the Jena Band of Choctaw in Louisiana. Some, like the Mississippi Choctaw are housing displaced members in casinos until power returns to the reservations. The National Indian Gaming Association set a $1 million goal for contributions to the Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund, and jump-started its drive with a $5,000 donation.

The Taiwan-based Tzu Chi Foundation, a Buddhist charity, announced it will donate $4 million to hurricane relief efforts, reports the Chinese daily, Sing Tao. The foundation has set up a relief center in Beaumont, La., for hurricane evacuees, and is giving $100 Wal-Mart gift cards and 30-minute phone cards to displaced Americans. A Thai woman who was one of the more than 700 people who arrived on the first day the center opened cried when she saw the Asian American disaster workers. She said that she had been to Taiwan and remembered how compassionate people there were.