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The Semi-Regular Newsletter


America, September 5, 2005

A New Orleans Friend in Need

A person to person connection & call to action

hot ladies
NOLA Before
the revolutionary
Teaching Yosef to swim
all gone
Everywhere I went - gone
time to go
The only way out
What can you do? What help can you give? How can you do your part to alleviate the tradegy that is the banished residents of New Orleans? Everyone says donate to the Red Cross or the Salvation Army, send them your money and they'll make it happen. They sure are doing their part, but I am a more active guy than that.

When Hurricane Frances f'ed up my weekend, I didn't stay in DC and send my Mom a check. No, I jumped in my car and sped down to Florida with chainsaws, gasoline, water, and enough supplies for a week. There I cut, cleaned, and generally helped out anyone and everyone the best I could. That's the kind of guy I am.

So sitting here watching Katrina slowly kill a city, and the residents slow die while trying to get out, I've oscillated between tears, anger, and renting a car and driving down there. Alas, where would I go? What would I do? Whom would I save?

While I loved my time in NOLA, where Yana and I were styling naturally in New Orleans from the moment we arrived, I don't have ties strong enough for me to make a real and lasting contribution. Or so I thought until today.

Back in 2003, at the end of our 14-hour drive from DC to NOLA for Yana's schoolmate's wedding, I made a fun little friend. Walking into the first house after our long drive, expecting a warm greeting, we were met by a 7 year old boy. He greeted Yana and her friends with hugs, but when he saw me, out came his protective side. With a yell, "Look Dad! It's a white guy in the house!" the "lil' revolutionary," made me laugh and made the Dad, Joey, crimson in embarrassment.

By the time we left, with Grandma's good food warming our bellies, I'd taught Yosef, the "lil revolutionary," a little about his African heritage. While the history and politics of East Africa didn't stick, the word for "white person" in East Africa sure did. For the rest of the week, my new nickname was "mzungu" a title that after I left, Yosef applied to every white person he saw. Yeah, I'm sure Mom and Dad loved me for that!

Today I've just heard distressing news about the "lil revolutionary" and his family. They were air lifted of the roof of their flooded home two days ago and were evacuated to Houston. Luckily, they're safe and staying with friends, but they have nothing, only the clothes on their back.

Think about that. Nothing, no spare clothes, no car, no money, not even toys for Yosef, now 10, and his 14 year old brother Jaha, to keep their mind off the total loss of their family's possessions. His parents, once very proud and productive members of their community, now homeless, jobless, penniless and living in borrowed space on borrowed funds.

Not for long though. I know the parents will find work soon. They ran a successful community daycare center in NOLA, a service that will be needed by Houston. But before then, they're gonna need new clothes, new lives, and even a new car. Or well, new to them at least. While I can't help with the car (could you?), I can help with the clothes and little things.

Forget donating my old stuff, I'm too much of a minimalist to have much past what I use every day, but I can help in a better way - retail therapy. I'm sending Target and Kroger gift cards, so Yosef and his family can find the self-respect and personal pride that only your own food and new clothes can provide.

You can do the same, for they live within a few blocks of Wal-Mart, Albertsons, and the Willowbrook Mall.

Please send the gift cards and any other donations suitable and usable by a family of five struggling to get back on their feet and back on with their lives to:

Grandma Mimi,
Parents Joey & Nabbi Ratliff,
Brothers Yosef & Jaha,
11114 Camino Oaks
Houston TX 77064

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I bought a $25 Target card for your friends, and threw down another $30 for Mercy Corps.

You did a good thing with this post.


I sent a $25 Target card yesterday too, and am calling Kroger today. Their website wouldn't take my credit card (something about too many characters in my address?!).

Mom says that the Salvation Army was on the ground first and the most organized after Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne last year in Florida, so they're getting my general donation.

This may be a dumb question, but why would you teach and African-American about East-African politics? Most African -Americans who descended from slaves would have been from west Africa


I'm not being racial, just curios, my prayers and money have already gone out to those who are suffering from this catastrophe.

Great post, Wayan. I've forwarded it on to others.


You're very right, he is most likely from West Africans back in the day, but in 2003, I'd just come back from East Africa and not been to West Africa yet - so I only had East Africa to speak from.

Still, that was more of Africa for him to know, so I gave what I could. Now I could tell him so much more.

Hi Wayan,

What a great idea to send gift cards to families. I can't imagine going through an experience like that and trying to restart my whole life. have been glued to the tv and still can't believe the pictures from there.

will do. darlin.

i'm just north of new orleans working the story. have heard many too sad to repeat. it breaks your heart.



If you've a PayPal account, I will be glad to send you some money, which you can disburse in the manner you deem best.

Seeing as I'm over in Baghdad, I regret this would be the only way I could effectively send any money.


I'm from Slidell ( a suburb of New Orleans), but I'm attending LSU in Baton Rouge.

If they were here I would gladly give them a ride. I think I'm going to go around to shelters this week and try to find people who do need rides.

Thanks for the info and the addy, I will send them something.


Hi Wayan,

Nice to hear from you, just wish it was under happier circumstances.

Not sure if I've ever mentioned it, but I'm the advisor for a chapter of my sorority (Phi Sigma Sigma) at the University of Rochester. The women are holding a Katrina fundraiser this weekend and I've suggested to the philanthropy chairs that they consider "adopting a family" as opposed to making a blanket donation to the Red Cross.

Thanks for forwarding this along, I hope that we'll be able to significantly help.


I too beleve in direct help vs. just cash to Red Cross. Please adopt a family, mine, one you know, etc. and donate to them. It makes a better donation and a better connection, IMHO.

Of the big organizations, the Red Corss isn't my fav. In my Mom's experience after Hurricanes Jeanne and Frances, it was the Salvation Army (vs. the ARC) that had the best & most organizaed response.

Good luck with your event.


I would like to give something but do not have a walmart or target nearby here in London. Further, I do not have the capability to write USD checks as most US banks do not accept my usd checks drawn on a foreign bank account. I wouldn't want that to bounce on them. Can I send you a payment via paypal to give to them? Thanks.

I think you're doing a great thing by tryng to help them. Very sad what happend to these people.

Kind regards,

Yep, you can paypal me at the link on the upper left of my website that says "send me wads of cash" or use this link. 100% of your donations will go to the Ratliff's.

Dear Wayan Vota,

This email confirms that you have received a payment of $100.00 USD from Rock.

Message: It's not much, but on a soldier's salary with a wife and kid to support at home...

Target card sent. This is a really great thing you're doing, putting a human face on the tragedy.

Hope you are well as obviosuly you are doing good for yana's friends. Please make sure they get to use the $50.00 I have sent in this email. I hope it helps them buy something that they have lost and eases their pain.

Kevin just sent you money with PayPal.
Payment Details
Amount: $50.00 USD

Your doing a really good thing Wayan. Vero has been giving like crazy because we all remember how this felt last year, not on this scale of course, be we can inagine better than most I think. You would be proud of your little town.
P.S. Come meet Baylee when you come home again and Rylie misses her chalk buddie (Apperantly I can't quite draw like you!)

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