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Cajun Hospitality Welcomes Hurricane Evacuees into Homes


Thousands of people from New Orleans and elsewhere along the southern Gulf Coast have taken refuge in shelters as far away as Colorado and Georgia, but many prefer to stay closer to home. Many thousands are now living in smaller towns southwest of New Orleans in the so-called Cajun country -- settled by French-speaking Acadians from Canada more than 200 years ago. VOA's Greg Flakus went to the small city of Kaplan and has this story of Cajun hospitality.

Local nurse Barbara Touchet has some extra guests for dinner tonight: a five-person family from New Orleans who escaped the flood and are now living with her.

"I have been watching since the day of the storm and I have cried the whole time thinking that these people have no home to go to and I have a big house and have room,” said Barbara. “I would take them all in if I could, but I cannot, so I wanted to help by taking families and in and giving them what they need.

I asked, “How long do you think this might last and you will have them here with you?”

To which she replied, "They are welcome to stay here as long as they have to. As a matter of fact, they could live here if they have to. There is no hurry for them to go on."

One of the evacuees staying here is 15-year-old Kim.

"It is really nice being around people,” Kim said. ”It is really nice feeling part of the family, even though you are not blood [relatives] and it just really feels good."

Local doctors are offering their services for free to the evacuees here in Kaplan. One of them is Doctor Padmini Gupta, a native of India who has called this area home for 23 years.

Dr. Gupta explained the situation confronting the evacuees. “Some of them are without medication because they left their medications at home. Some of them have lost their medical cards because they did not bring it with them. Some of them do not have much insurance information and they come to see me. I have told them that I am not going to charge them and I have done my best to do what I can to provide them with medications that I have."

Kaplan civic leaders set up a shelter in the American Legion Hall here, but it is mostly empty because so many local residents have opened their homes to the hurricane victims. Still, local organizers remain here with beds, food, water and other assistance for anyone who needs help.

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