Hurricane Katrina: Medical Teams International finds overwhelming need

Originally published
PORTLAND, ORE. - Oct 18, 2007 - Anthony Consantino has lived his entire life in New Orleans. A WWII veteran and retired firefighter, the 83-year-old civil servant lost everything to Hurricane Katrina. Without insurance or other resources, Anthony had no place to live and little hope of returning home...or of finding the class ring given to him by his mother during the Great Depression.

When Medical Teams International volunteers from Portland learned of his situation in 2006, 20 workers cleaned out the house and prepared it for reconstruction. They also returned Anthony's class ring to him. Next month, a volunteer team from Portland will help rebuild Anthony's two bedroom home, three blocks from where the levee broke.

"This story is repeated a hundred fold," says Bas Vanderzalm, president of Medical Teams International, who returned from the Gulf Coast last week. "There are thousands more like Anthony who are in desperate need of assistance."

The suicide rate in the Gulf Coast is triple the national average according to national statistics. Vanderzalm saw the trauma first hand. "Houses remain inhabitable, schools are boarded up and jobs are few. Families carry a tremendous burden. The emotional toll is staggering."

Media: Bas Vanderzalm, president of Medical Teams International, will speak about what he saw and what happens next for hurricane recovery from 10 to 11 a.m., Friday, Oct. 19, at Medical Teams International, 14150 SW Milton Ct., Tigard. Photos and video are available.

Vanderzalm visited Medical Teams International's projects in New Orleans, including housing reconstruction sites, a trauma counseling program, and a meal distribution center. A local staff member oversees a city-wide mental health program that provides trauma counseling training to professional therapists and graduate level college students. More than 150 people each week receive counseling through the program.

Vanderzalm traveled to Baton Rouge, where Medical Teams International partially funds a mobile medical van that provides health care to FEMA trailer communities.

In Mississippi, Vanderzalm met with local residents who are now living in homes refurbished by volunteers. The relief agency worked on more than 120 homes before ending operations in the region last summer.

Medical Teams International was one of the first agencies to respond to Hurricane Katrina, sending medical volunteers, supplies and funds to the region in the first week. The agency has deployed more than 500 volunteers to restore 200 homes, and provide medical care and trauma counseling services for people in need.


Barbara Agnew
503-341-6620 (cell)