Hope Floats After Katrina
The shrimp are bountiful in the Gulf of Mexico following Hurricane Katrina, but some Louisiana fishermen have been left behind at the dock. Many Vietnamese and Cambodian Americans lost their livelihoods in the storm and now don’t qualify for traditional loans. As Reed Galin reports, a unique program is getting them back out to sea.
(Locator: Gretna, Louisiana)
Bringing in the day’s catch is demanding and dangerous, but the opportunity to work is a dream come true for Neang Pum.
Neang Pum/Shrimper: “I am 64 years old, but I like that job.”
Shrimpers like Pum fled Vietnam and Cambodia as war refugees and came to the Louisiana gulf in the early 80’s.
Starting with nothing, they built good lives. But for Pum and about 200 others, Hurricane Katrina washed away decades of hard work.
Neang Pum/Shrimper (through a translator): “She is saying that during Katrina she lost her income. Her boat was broken. It is still under repair.”
The United Methodist Committee on Relief is helping fishermen with funding for funding for a program called “Boat People S-O-S.”
Margaret Nguyen/Boat People S-O-S: “Most of them, their boats have been destroyed. The engines have been damaged.”
Neang Pum/Shrimper (through a translator): “She’s been working on the boat repair. If she were not helped by FEMA and Boat People S-O-S, she could not afford it.”
Pum also lost her house. Her boat still needs more work, but she says the hurricane did bring some unexpected blessings.
Neang Pum/Shrimper (through a translator): “American people are very nice to us.
They understand that we have hard work to do, but we still happy because we understand, ‘people care about me.’”
Some fishermen say it could take weeks or months to repair their boats. They say it’s a good business because they can make thousands of dollars on a single trip—but only if their boats are running.
For more information on Boat People S-O-S, call 703-538-2190 or check their Web site.
For ongoing ways to help victims of hurricanes and other natural disasters, go to the UMCOR site.