Philippines looks to New Orleans for rebuilding help

Published: Nov. 19, 2013 at 3:13 AM CST|Updated: Jun. 29, 2016 at 8:56 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS - The Philippine government says more than four million people displaced by  Typhoon Haiyan need food, shelter and water. Now, survivors turn to New Orleans for guidance in the rebuilding effort. But some New Orleanians are still trying to get back into their homes, eight years after Katrina.

Robert and Addie Ford's house is a work in progress. Heavily damaged during Hurricane Katrina, the couple spent years saving up money to rebuild but like so many others, their money fell into the wrong hands.

"We had several contractors take the money," said Addie Ford.

Then, a church stepped in and connected the couple with the United Way. The organization teams up with Saints players for "Hope for the Holidays." Each player who wants to get involved picks a deserving family and then contributes money for the rebuild.

Wide receiver Lance Moore says he felt a special connection to the Fords.

"I believe the house was bought around the same time the Saints came into existence, and I thought that was kinda significant," Moore said. "Just an opportunity to give back and put somebody that so deserves to be back in their home, back in their home."

Over the years, 16 homes have been rebuilt through "Hope for the Holidays." The Fords' house is Lance Moore's third project.

"We know there are thousands of families out there that are looking for help," said Michael Williamson, president of the United Way of Southeast Louisiana.

Williamson has lots of experience helping people recover from disasters. He said he has recently been contacted by his counterparts in the Philippines who'd like a delegation from New Orleans to travel there to brainstorm ways to help.

"There's a lot of interest from them, once they get a sense of what's ahead, to sit down and talk with us, and I talked to some folks in New Orleans and said 'Hey, let's talk,' because if we do that, they might want to be a part of it."

With the latest figures estimating over 3,900 people died in Typhoon Haiyan, Williamson advises folks in the Philippines to first focus on everyday recovery before starting to worry about rebuilding infrastructure. He says New Orleans is a classic example - that it will take time.

"It'll be eight years plus after the storm, and we're still helping families return to their homes and return to a sense of normalcy," said Williamson.

Addie Ford didn't think she and her husband would ever get any help, let alone from a Saint.

"I'm very grateful," she said. "That was a good feeling to know that somebody thought enough to accept us."

Volunteers are working on the Fords' house helping to install some of the materials Lance Moore's donation helped buy. Their home should be complete in the coming months.