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Evacuees In Shelters Getting Help Rebuilding Their Lives

A combination convention center and sports arena in Baton Rouge, Louisiana is housing some 1,800 displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina. People from New Orleans are currently staying in the Red Cross shelter before moving on with their lives. VOA's Deborah Block spoke to some of the people there about their uncertain future.

Fourteen-year-old Joshua Davis is by himself at the shelter after getting separated from his mother. While his mother decided to ride out the hurricane at her apartment, he decided to walk down the street to higher ground as the floodwaters rose. Recalling the event Joshua says, "Yeah, it was right by my chin. And I got scared and I thought I would probably drown."

Harrison Weber lost his house in the flooding. He says being in the shelter is tough. "It's a struggle but something like this will only make a person stronger. You get strength from this. You just get up every morning and do what you have to do. Keep your head up."

Jeff Walker, a volunteer from Ohio, is a stay-at-home dad. He says he is he especially concerned about the children whose lives he tries to make more pleasant. "It can be anything from just stopping and getting down on a knee and saying 'hello,' and playing with them for a minute, or holding them while their mom is carrying their food over to their cots."

Despite the hoards of people who have come to this shelter, Dr. Toni Brayer, a volunteer from San Francisco, says there are no serious diseases. But she's concerned about the spreading of diarrhea disease. "If someone does have some kind of intestinal problem, a fever, we're trying to isolate them. We now have a small unit where we can pull people out of the general population and so far it's been successful. We haven't had any disease. It's something we're watching out for all the time."

Darriette McGee hopes to go back to her hurricane-damaged home in a couple of weeks. When she could no longer afford to stay at a hotel, she came to the shelter. She says activities across the street sponsored by some churches today are a welcome diversion. "They're having fun. [They] just make people excited and everything. Get them out (from thinking about) of the hurricane for awhile."

Joshua Davis has learned his mother is safe and staying in Chicago. He hopes to be reunited with her soon and knows what it will feel like. It will be "a happy ending" he said.