Let me describe the conditions at Pearlington Volunteer Village.
Every volunteer who comes to work at this village for a week is given critical information to make sure no one is surprised. People sleep in pods—these are plastic huts that are set up on wooden floors. The village managers are working on getting air conditioning and heating into each pod, since the outdoor heat can be excessive, and the pods have no insulation or means of keeping cool. The pods have no electricity, though that is being worked on.
Meals are eaten communally. Everyone shares breakfast, and then gets set to head of to work sites. If they are not within easy access to the Baptist church doing the lunch feedings, the volunteers pack a lunch to take along. Then they head out for the day’s work.
People are advised to bring their own tools, and supplies if possible. The work that is being done varies depending upon the condition of the house being worked on. Most of the mucking out, of clearing debris, and tearing out ruined interiors, has been done. Now comes the rebuilding, or even the total building. Once framing is in place, dry wall is installed, electrical wiring put in place, plumbing done. Obviously, the difference between the mucking out stage and the rebuilding stage has changed the demand for work level skill. Now the great need is for people who know what they are doing with the electrical and plumbing stage. Of course, once the interior work is done, painting needs to be done.
After the long day of work, volunteers return to the village, and shower. The sinks for washing up, shaving or brushing teeth are outdoors. Toilets are porta-potties. I refrained from taking a photo of those!
Some of the volunteers come along to cook. The kitchen is probably the most civilized looking portion of the village.
Each evening, the group holds devotions. Many people who have made the trip reflect on the need to process what they have seen and what they are doing. The evening devotions helps to lend a time of quieting, of settling their minds.
Even with these most primitive of conditions, we met people at lunch who were returning for their second, or even third trip. Many faith groups and other groups continue to respond to the incredible need of this area. Frankly, without these volunteers, it is difficult to imagine that governmental agencies would have known what to do, much less muster the will and resources to do it.
The items hanging from the support beams of the dining tent are the name tags of volunteer workers who have come and gone--leaving their tags behind is a kind of symbolic way of leaving a bit of their hearts behind.