Kids' Camp
After Katrina

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Four years after Hurricane Katrina blasted the Gulf Coast, families struggle to reclaim the lives they enjoyed before the storm. One woman wants to see more than buildings repaired; she works to be sure the youngest survivors reclaim the joys of childhood. Heidi Robinson reports.

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(Locator: Pearlington, Mississippi)

Voice of Jeremiah Ritchie, Gulf Coast Resident: “It changed everything.”

Jeremiah Ritchie never expected his family to spend four years in temporary housing after Hurricane Katrina.

Voice of Jeremiah Ritchie, Gulf Coast Resident: “It was just like someone dropped a bomb. And not everything is fixed...”

…including the lives of his three children…

Skylar Ritchie: “I just wanted to break down and cry.”

...who vividly remember losing everything.

Camp director: “Good morning! Come on!”

But step by step, sad childhood memories can be replaced by…


…a new song.

Voice of Catherine Ritch Guess: “Good, I think you got it!”

Young Katrina survivors in Mississippi enjoy the natural rhythms of summer fun, thanks to volunteers from North Carolina.

(Children play instruments)

For the fourth year, United Methodist musician and author Catherine Ritch Guess has brought summer camp…


…to a group of children, most of whom still live in temporary housing.

United Methodist churches from eight states donate supplies and funds to help make the camp a reality.

Skylar Ritchie, Camp Participant: “It makes me open up and see the world much more better. I love it. It’s wonderful.”

Each activity—from kite making to pottery—builds positive images, helping children escape memories of the storm.

DuJuanya Burton, Camp Participant: “It just makes them disappear. It’s like it never happened.”

Catherine Ritch Guess, Camp Founder: “The people here have seen so many volunteers working who have been rebuilding their homes in their community. But if you don’t rebuild the lives of these children, then why bother to rebuild the homes.”

(Carnival music)

The camp carnival hits the mark, putting prizes in the hands of children who lost their favorite toys.

Camp participant: “Nobody else ever brings anything like this. Awesome!”

Voice of Catherine Ritch Guess: “I can’t do hammers and nails, but I can rebuild the lives of the children.”


Catherine Ritch Guess has written a novel about the Katrina experience called I Know Who Holds Tomorrow. The book is dedicated to some of the children of Pearlington, Mississippi, many of whom are characters in the book.

For more information, visit the Web site or contact the Western North Carolina Conference at 800-562-7929 or 704-535-2260.

Also, see: Arts camp helps heal Katrina’s youngest victims

Posted: August 28, 2009