Tulane Mental Health Experts Help Puerto-Rican Hurricane Victims

Tulane recently revealed that professor’s were traveling to Puerto Rico in order to obtain vital information related to disaster recovery as it relates to Hurricane Victims from Hurricane Maria.  Hurricane Maria is regarded as the worst natural disaster on record to affect Puerto Rico, and is also the deadliest Atlantic hurricane since Jeanne in 2004.  As of 28 August 2018, 3,057 people were estimated to have been killed by the hurricane: an estimated 2,975 in Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria battered the island with tornado-­force winds. Massive rains brought catastrophic flooding, washing out bridges and inundating entire neighborhoods. The island’s infrastructure, already shaky, was devastated.  Power and running water were cut off for most of the population. Toilets couldn’t flush; there was no water for showers, baths, or washing clothes. People had to rely on bottled water, but supplies were limited. Phone lines and internet were obsolete. Recovery efforts were delayed because airports were shut down. Useless electric stoves had to be replaced with propane ones. Without refrigeration, food rotted and vital medicines spoiled. Most can only imagine what this sort of devastation does to a human’s mental state.  It was collective trauma for an entire population and the consequences of such trauma can linger for decades, following generations even when the memory of the actual hurricane has faded.

New Orleans is no stranger to the aftermath of Hurricane devastation.  Maybe that is why Tulane developed their Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy (DRLA) which equips students with an interdisciplinary view of the challenges and best practice approaches to leadership in the disaster resilience and humanitarian aid fields to prepare them for careers in areas such as nonprofit leadership, disaster risk and recovery, grass-root development, and more.  DRLA Director Reggie Ferreira and Charles Figley, director of the Tulane Trauma Institute, traveled to Puerto Rico at the invitation of the Foundation for Puerto Rico, a nonprofit organization that promotes economic and social development. Together, Figley and Ferreira are working with the foundation to assess Puerto Rico’s need for disaster mental health research and services, and to train NGO leaders in disaster resilience leadership, share lessons learned from Katrina and other major disasters, and help local universities develop disaster resilience and trauma courses and programs.  One of the main goals of the visit is to develop a comprehensive and collaborative resilience consortium in partnership with the Foundation for Puerto Rico. “Resilience is the ability to grow and withstand the most severe of circumstances,” Ferreira said. “The aim of the consortium will be to share resources and provide a path forward for mental health in Puerto Rico post-Maria.” On their agenda while in Puerto Rico is to also attend a memorial service for disaster victims. “The response to our visit has been amazing,” said Ferreira, who has been visiting Puerto Rico regularly since April. “The folks here have been very open and appreciative of our assistance. They are especially interested to learn more about New Orleans and disaster recovery as it relates to Hurricane Katrina.”

Hopefully, this visit helps leaders in disaster recovery transmit vital information to students, institutions, and volunteers that will help make future assistance not only more valuable but more time sensitive.  These efforts could potentially save thousands of lives impacted by natural disasters in the US and beyond.

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One Book One City Embraces Two Tulane Professors’ Works

The One Book movement is a community reading program that began in 1998 and invites everyone in a city to read and discuss the same book.  Discussions usually take place in small groups and sometimes authors participate. Its mission is to promote literacy and community, providing literacy resources to adults and emphasizing the importance of dialogue between diverse groups of people.  Tulane University has recently announced that a pair of English professors have earned the distinct honor of having their books named as the official reading selections for two American cities in 2019 participating in the One Book Movement.

One is acclaimed writer and novelist Zachary Lazar whose latest book, “Vengeance,” was selected by One Book One New Orleans.  Published in 2018, “Vengeance” was inspired by passion play “The Life of Jesus Christ” which Lazar witnessed at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, La. In the book, the narrator tries to unravel the truth behind the supposed crime of Kendrick King, an inmate he meets and befriends, who is serving a life sentence at Angola for murder.  “My book deals with some painful subjects, but it’s also about loving New Orleans, not just falling in love with it, which are two different things,” Lazar said. “I am very honored to be embraced by this city in this way.”

The other professor chosen for this honor is two-time National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward’s novel, “Sing, Unburied, Sing,” was chosen for One Book, One Philadelphia.  One Book, One Philadelphia is a signature event of the Free Library of Philadelphia that promotes literacy, library usage, and citywide conversation by encouraging the entire greater Philadelphia area to come together through reading and discussing a single book.  Ward’s third novel, “Sing, Unburied, Sing,” is often compared to works by William Faulkner and Toni Morrison and won the National Book Award for fiction.  It was also selected as the Time Magazine Best Novel of the Year that same year.  Ward became the first African-American author and the first woman to receive two National Book Awards. She previously won the award with her 2011 novel, “Salvage the Bones.” Ward’s memoir, “Men We Reaped,” is also the One Book, One Philadelphia adult companion selection for 2019.  “I’m honored my book was chosen to be a One Book, One Philadelphia selection,” Ward said. “I’m grateful that my characters will live and breathe for the people of Philadelphia, and I hope they find something of themselves in my work.” “Sing, Unburied, Sing” chronicles a black family on an odyssey of sorts in rural Mississippi. The story features a 13-year-old boy named Jojo, whose drug-addicted mother takes him and his toddler sister on a road trip to pick up their white father when he is released from prison.

“One Book” projects are listed on the Center for the Book’s Website both by state/city and author/book title. The number of projects has grown rapidly, from 63 in 30 states in June 2002 to more than 350 in all 50 states in December 2005.   In recent years, the “One Book” concept has been supported by a number of organizations such as the American Library Association (ALA) which provides librarians, library administrators and library partner organizations with guidance and information for the successful execution of “One Book” initiatives.

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