Sunday, September 25, 2005

Katrina's sister Rita 

I apologize for the lapse in communication. Preparations for Katrina's sister Rita took priority over the past few days.

The community technology center (CTC) at the Reliant Arena (adjacent to the Astrodome) was shut down on Tuesday as the remaining Katrina evacuees at the Astrodome complex were moved to Arkansas for safety and out of Rita's way. Rita's damage, while significant in the areas affected the most, could have been catastrophic if the storm were to have made a direct hit on Galveston and then Houston. Over 5.5 million people live in the Greater Houston area. The only damage Technology For All (TFA) sustained were a few bent antennas on the TFA-Wireless project. TFA's CTC at Mission Milby is intact. The other CTCs in the area sustained minimal damage such as missing shingles, broken tree limbs etc. The streets are full of debris from the wind, but that will be cleaned up in a few days.

The task ahead continues to be working with the over 100,000 Katrina evacuees that remain in our city. TFA is committed to providing the leadership to assist and challenge CTCs across the city to assist in this important work. Many of the evacuees have limited literacy and limited computer skills. Thus, many do not have the knowledge, skills and abilities they need to earn a livable wage in the Houston economy. This creates what I believe is both an opportunity and responsibility for community technology centers across the region.

To give you a sense of some of our work over the past several weeks with Katrina evacuees, I have pasted below the excerpt of an email from Jim Forrest, one of our TFA staff members. It illustrates the human side of our Katrina work.

Will Reed

"We are doing OK here. This is the first time I have had time to respond as I have been getting my home, and others secured. On Wednesday morning I decided to remain here at the house. The house has never flooded and I now have all my shutters in place. With all the problems on the freeway it appears that it may have been an OK good decision. The cell phones were almost completely useless on Wednesday but as of later last night (Thursday) the calls are going through.

Now that the storm appears to be heading more to the east of Houston I am feeling a little more comfortable with that decision. I have a generator, plenty of food and everything secured. Jesse, the young man that came home with me is doing great. He was such a big help in getting everything done here. I have finally gotten in contact with his mom in a high school shelter in Covington Louisiana.

Mabel, his mom, is with her semi comatose disabled sister and her 10 month son since the storm. Jesse was finally able to talk with her for the first time in almost two weeks. The last time she saw him he was being air lifted from their home by helicopter. She was being relocated from Covington to Folsom Louisiana yesterday and I have not spoken with her since early yesterday morning. It may be sometime before she is able to have Jesse with her again so I am planning to get him in school as soon as the storm passes.

I also have spoken with the young man that I made friends with earlier in the week, Jerel. He is safe in Houston with his mom and brother at a Holiday Inn near the Astrodome. Mark (thanks Mark for helping Claudia) helped her get additional days and they are going to ride out the storm at the hotel.

I received an email from him regarding his status yesterday afternoon. They have moved to from the 8th floor to the 2nd floor and are going to ride out the storm at the hotel. Jerel sent the email from the hotel computer. It is amazing because he didn't know how to use a computer just 7 days ago and now he is using it to communicate with the world."

I noticed they have opened a Rita Family Messages web site. I plan to update my status information this morning. As I mentioned cell phone service was bad and I was unable to answer the calls............"

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Honeymoon Continues 

A thirty-something couple volunteered during the day yesterday at the Arena Community Technology Center. It was something they decided to do together to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Clearly, they were still on their on the honeymoon. With three children (ages 6, 5, and 1) at home, they lingered at the center longer than planned because the husband of the couple chose to assist one more member of the evacuee community. His last evacuee client entered the Arena CTC as they were preparing to head home to The Woodlands (a planned community north of Houston) to be with their children for the evening. It was one of several opportunities they had to assist and empower those whose computer skills were limited.

With care and compassion nurtured by their love for each other they assisted evacuees throughout the day. It was a joy to watch them skillfully use the tools of technology while they sat with various evacuee clients experiencing both joy as well as heartache. They worked together and one of their clients for the day was a family. The family was looking for their father. Since becoming residents of the Astrodome more than two weeks before, they had come first to the ACT Center in the Astrodome as well as the Arena CTC to register themselves as survivors and then to regularly check on the status of the father. I was aware of the family because a day earlier one of our volunteers informed that she had spoken with a social worker in the Coroners office. A message to call the social worker was left for the family. Yesterday, our honeymoon couple sat with this family of adult children as they received the message to make the call. From a phone at the Arena CTC they made the call and received the message that their father had been hospitalized in a New Orleans hospital and later died while there. It was not the news they wished to hear. But, hearing the news with the honeymoon couple made it easier.

Many technology solutions have been developed since the devastation of Katrina. Some are incredibly sophisticated. But the application we have found most useful is very simple. The "Family Messages" tool allows individuals, families and loved ones in disparate previously unknown places to leave messages for each other. Family messages include everything from "I'm OK" to "call me at XYZ shelter." Most members of the evacuee community that we have worked with do not have email addresses and have limited computer skills. Over time in multiple visits we have used simple tools together to both find family members and empower evacuees with new skills for living in today's world. Many evacuees now have email addresses. Many are still learning how to skillfully use a mouse. But their skills are improving as they discover new ways to communicate with each other in the digital world. This is empowerment.

In my opinion, empowerment is one of the key roles of community technology centers (CTCs). The Arena CTC is but one of many CTCs across Houston and across the world. ICT (Information and Communications Technologies) is taken for granted by many of us who lived connected to the digital world by our cell phones, wireless Internet connections and other tools. CTCs bring the tools of technology into low-income and under-resourced communities. CTCs empower their clients by teaching them the knowledge, skills and abilities they need to use those tools. For more about community technology centers go to www.ctcnet.org or www.americaconnects.net.

Yes, our work is about empowerment. But it is also about sitting with people in the joy of new discoveries and with those who experience heart-wrenching grief. The honeymoon couple reminded us yesterday that relationships must be nurtured and celebrated. The tools of technology have been helping us to do that with thousands of members of the evacuee community. Thanks to each of you who have made this possible.

Will Reed

Sunday, September 18, 2005

More Photos 

These photos are from the Reliant Center Community Technology Center. With the generous donation of AMD's Personal Internet Communicator devices we also were able set up an area there for children and youth. Over 100 computers and PICs were installed at Reliant Center, adjancent to the Astrodome.

Coverage of TFA's Katrina Relief Efforts 

The news media has covered TFA's Katrina relief efforts in radio, print, and television media. Online references to TFA's work include---

MSNBC - http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9175720/

Andy Carvin's Waste of Bandwidth - http://www.andycarvin.com/archives/2005/09/bringing_intern.html

TomEppy.com - http://www.tomeppy.com/blog/2005/09/wiring_the_astr.html

Astrodome Photos by Zach Casper - http://flickr.com/photos/zcasper/sets/882803/

Zach Casper.com - http://zcasper.blogspot.com/

MySA.com - http://www.mysanantonio.com/sharedcontent/APStories/stories/D8CBQNPG0.html

SanLuisObispo.com - http://www.sanluisobispo.com/mld/sanluisobispo/news/nation/12562822.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp

Lancaster Online - http://ap.lancasteronline.com/4/katrina_tech_donations

Help Katrina Survivors From Your Home 

One of the best ways that people can volunteer their tech skills from home is by assisting to connect Katrina survivors with lost loved ones. There are many Katrina survivors still looking for loved ones.

With assistance from Yahoo, we have worked together to create a page that aggregates search sites and tools. The site is http://news.yahoo.com/katrinahelp . On the site, pick a survivor or missing loved one at one of the search sites such as family messages. The People finder on the site web crawls every search site we currently know about. With phone numbers and other information, people can make calls and do other investigative search work to put families back together. Many of the more difficult cases involve families with limited computer skills. The help of tech savvy "Volunteer Searchers" can be an important help in this process.

Also, tech savvy volunteers with computers at home can work with Katrina survivors by phone to assist them to do other things such as work out ID problems, fill out forms etc. This may be more difficult because of the difficulty of establishing trust over the phone. Many of the evacuees have been issued cell phones or voice mail accounts to assist them in communicating. These numbers are often listed in the information included on the search sites such as Family Messages which allows evacuees to leave messages for loved ones online.

TFA has been aggregating the tools we have developed and other information online to assist our volunteers in Houston. You may find it useful. To view it go to, http://www.techforall.org/KatrinaSupport.html .

Saturday, September 17, 2005


Tools are what my father used in his vocation as a chemist and with his woodworking enjoyed in the garage after he came home at night. Plumbers, mechanics and electricians use tools to make life easier for all of us. Surgeons use tools to fix things wrong inside our bodies.

The volunteers at the Arena Community Technology Center (ACT Center) have been using the tools of technology to find lost loved ones, work with evacuees to establish email accounts, fill out various applications, and assist in searches for housing, jobs and the other things needed begin life anew in their new hometowns.

An example from the ACT Center today are the two volunteers from St. Luke's United Methodist Church, Houston, who assisted a young man looking for his lost father. The young man was safe with his mother living at the Astrodome and now the Reliant Arena. While she no longer has a relationship with the young man's father, the young man assisted by this couple wanted to know that his father was alive and OK. Through the tools of technology they located his father, who apparently had established an email account for the first time at another shelter. This volunteer couple assisted the son to establish an email account as well and send his father a message. The next step is reunification.

Without volunters and the tools that father and son were empowered to use, finding each other would have been almost impossible. Community Technology Centers (CTCs), like the ones TFA has helped establish and works with across the greater Houston area, empower low-income and under-resourced communities through the tools of technology. The knowledge, skills, and abilities needed for success in todays world are imparted to youth and their families through these CTCs. The CTCs that TFA has been operating to assist the evacuee community are no different than other CTCs across Houston and across the nation. These CTCs serve a critical need of empowerment with populations that now can utilize these technology tools that many of us take for granted. TFA is a membes of the Community Technology Centers Network (CTCNet). Other member organizations of CTCNet are involved in similar CTC projects at relief centers across the U.S. Without the tools and the work of empowering clients to use them, many persons served by CTCs might not benefit from the information resources many of us use with ease.

Friday, September 16, 2005

ACT Center now at Reliant Arena 

Yesterday, we moved, along with 3000 members of the evacuee community. The ACT Center (now Arena Community Technology Center) is now located in the concourse area of the Reliant Arena adjacent to Section 201. The ACT Center at the Astrodome and the Reliant Center CTC closed yesterday as the remaining evacuees on site moved into the Reliant Arena. We still need volunteers to assist persons locate lost loved ones and utilize other online tools. The ACT Center will continue operations until this facility closes and all residents have been placed in other housing.

While we continue to have success in finding lost loved ones, our work is more difficult. Volunteers like Pam, Mark, Maggie, Kevin, Eugenia, Mike, Jimmie, Suzi and others continue to help out day after day. They are relentless in their efforts to assist evacuees. Sometimes the work is much more difficult than expected as in two cases yesterday. One volunteer assisted a young women make arrangements to bury her 2 year son who died in the floodwaters, while and another assisted an evacuee make travel arrangements to attend her father's funeral.

Life and death go on in this community. The living make arrangements to bury their loved ones. Children and youth leave for school each morning. Adults deal with the issues of starting life anew like looking for work, arranging for housing, establishing their lost identity etc. The ACT Center is a vital part of this community. Connecting people to the information and resources they need is empowering. Today, they get help from a bevy of caring volunteers. In the process, they are learning new skills for living in today's world.

Without the generous comittments of volunteers and donors, this would not be possible. We thank our many donors including SBC, Yahoo, AMD, IBM, DIR, Plains All-American Pipeline, Reliant, SimDesk Technologies, Pinnacle Wireless and many more who have made individual donations of cash, supplies, volunteer snacks, computer hardware, and other tools.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Nice Note from a Volunteer 

Thanks for your help and for letting me be involved in the Community Technology Center project at the Astrodome. I found an apartment for Sally, the woman I was helping, and we are going to be moving her in on Wednesday. Hope things are settling down there - keep me posted on your needs.


Monday, September 12, 2005

Blogger at the Astrodome Community Technology Center 

I had seen Joshua in the room for several days, but I did not know what he was doing. I thought he was sending emails or instant messaging friends in other places. Today, in talking on a more personal level with Joshua Cousin I discovered that he has been using his time in the ACT Center to write in his blog. http://booknote.blogspot.com . Joshua began writing his blog in January 2005 as a way to release some of his thoughts and feelings. Since hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Joshua has written in his blog almost everyday. His blog reflects on life at the "Dome my home" and other choice topics. His blog has been featured on CNN and it is a good read from the perspective of an evacuee.

We Need Volunteers with Flexibility 

The three community technology centers (CTCs) on site at the Reliant Complex are in a period of transition as the residents seek permanent and temporary housing off-site and begin to rebuild their lives.

Tonight we begin our first organized class onsite at the ACT Center in the Astrodome. Debra Santos, a new CTC volunteer, will be teaching a class on email and Internet skills each evening from 6-8 p.m. The goal is to assist attendees to gain the skills they need to function more effectively in the world that more and more utilizes the internet to share and disseminate information.

In less than a week we expect the number of persons in the Houston area shelters to be consolidated into the Reliant Arena. The CTC that TFA established there will be utilized for continuing classes and support for the evacuee community. In addition TFA is developing a plan to train leaders in existing CTCs to prepare for the provision of classes and services to members of the evacuee community.

The bottom line is this! We will continue to need volunteers for a long time. The location and timing of volunteer support will need to be flexible. Until the ACT Center at the dome closes, we ask that all volunteers not previously assigned report to the ACT Center for deployment to CTCs in need on site at the Reliant complex. The Astrodome Community Technology Center is located on the ground floor of the dome in the Theatre that is located at the South Ramp inside the concourse. If you have last minute questions regarding volunteer assignments at the Reliant complex, please call 713.454.6415 between the hours of 8 and 4.

Volunteers willing to continue providing supportive services to the evacuee community following the movement of our work from the Reliant Complex are asked to email Pam.Gardner@techforall.org with an indication of times available.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Role of CTCs 

Community Technology Centers (CTCs) use computers and technology as tools to serve the needs of low-income and under-resourced communities. The Community Technology Centers Network (www.ctcnet.org ) is a national member organization focused supporting the work of CTCs across the nation. At last count there were an estimated 400-600 Katrina relief shelters across the United States. Many of these are in communities served by CTCs.

Several leaders of the CTC community across the U.S. participated in a conference call this week. The purpose was to discuss the role of CTCs in both the short-term and longer-term ongoing relief efforts as America assists the evacuee community to get on with their lives and begin to build new lives in new hometowns.

Together, we agreed that CTCs do have a role in this effort. The short term role is to address the immediate needs of evacuees by assisting them to find loved ones, register for various relief programs and make the plans necessary to begin life anew. In the longer term, CTCs will have a role of training, public access to computing for the evacuee community and the implementation of programs to assist the evacuee community to effectively move on through life. Digital media projects with evacuee youth and young adults could assist evacuees to capture the personal stories of this tragedy in a way that brings healing and wholeness. Training programs to assist evacuees to gain specific skills, knowledge, and abilities for employment in their new hometowns will also be important.

In the immediate short term, the large relief centers with thousands of evacuees are being replaced by smaller centers in the hearts of neighborhoods. Many of these are served by CTCs. In the Houston area, Technology For All (TFA) will assist the smaller shelter sites to develop CTCs, if they are not established, and assist existing CTCs to develop effective programs to address the needs of our new neighbors.

We will be looking to our existing community partners to assist in this effort and will also seek the funding needed to build the capacity necessary to serve the estimated 100,000 persons who will remain as permanent residents of our city in addition to the regular clients of Houston area CTCs. These CTCs will need additional capacity and resources to serve their existing clientele as well as their new clients.

Friday, September 09, 2005


Three days ago Pearlie's story was shared. Her husband was lost somewhere in an Austin shelter. We knew he was in Austin, but we did not know where. Wednesday night, with the help of volunteers, she spoke to her husband on the phone for the first time since Tuesday, eight days before. Pearlie had not slept in three nights because she was so concerned. As she shared her story with excitement and glee, Pearlie said "I won't be able to sleep tonight either." The volunteer that assisted Pearlie to find her husband and make that phone call took her home, provided her a bed for the night, a nice warm shower, and then drove her to Austin and back yesterday. Pearlie and her husband were reunited through the efforts of caring and concerned volunteers. Last night they slept next to one another on cots on the floor of the Astrodome. Today, they began looking for an apartment together as they prepared for their new life in Houston.

Volunteers have been the heart of this relief effort. We have had over 250 volunteers register for service in the ACT Center at the the Reliant Arena and the Reliant Center. There are many more whose names we did not capture on paper, but helped. Thousands of hours of volunteer service have made it possible for evacuees to find loved ones, register for various relief programs and connect on the human level with persons who cared and listened to their stories. The best estimate is that volunteers have committed over 3,000 hours of volunteer service to this project. We are grateful for these efforts without which this project would not be possible. Several of our most experienced and helpful volunteers have been members of the evacuee community. Several more traveled from other cities across the U.S. to spend a week or more in Houston assisting evacuees.

NOTICE TO VOLUNTEERS - Reliant Park has experienced intermittent shutdowns. The Community Technology Centers at Reliant Park still need volunteers. To enter the park successfully, enter the park at the volunteer entrance on Kirby, register in Reliant Center and make your way to the ACT Center on the bottom floor of the dome at the south entrance. Once there you will be trained and assigned to a place of service.

We especially thank our persistent volunteers who have been here day after long day. There are many, but Greg, Liz, Travis, Will (the other one), Lynn, James, Eugenia, Melissa, and Paul have been here day after day.

CONTRIBUTIONS - Many organizations and individuals have contributions to this effort. In addition to the early contributors Technology For All (www.techforall.org ), SBC (www.sbc.org ), CompuCycle (www.compucycle.net ), SimHouston ( www.simhouston.org ) and Yahoo (www.yahoo.com ), we have received more recent in-kind contributions to this effort from HP, IBM (through SBC) Reliant Energy, Plains All American Pipeline, AMD, Pinnacle Wireless, Motion Computing and many more. In addition to our direct out of pocket expenses, TFA has made significant investments in the project out of our cash reserves.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Several different media have reviewed the work of the ACT Center including ABC, CBS, Univision, NPR, Nightline, Japanese News, Good Morning America and Oprah. For a recent article about the Astrodome Community Technology Center written by Ron Harris of the St. Louis Post Dispatch go to http://www.sanluisobispo.com/mld/sanluisobispo/news/nation/12562822.htm ,

They have Beads...We have a Cow Bell 

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a party all night atmosphere as floats wind their way through the French Quarter. People yell "beads, beads, throw me some beads." The crowd wants beads and the decorated floats with their Krewes are prepared to toss them.

For many years the Astrodome was the home of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the largest Livestock Show and Rodeo in the world with over 1 million attendees each year. It is a huge cultural event for Houston. New Houstonians discover that though they may not own a ranch or have any cows, its a lot of fun with great entertainment. During February in Houston, it is not unusual to see more cowboy hats and boots than suits and ties.

We decided on Tuesday to introduce our new friends from New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana to a little Texas culture. Every time a member of the evacuee community found or reconnected with a loved one, we invited them to ring a Texas cow bell. There were several times during the day that it rang three or four times in less than five minutes. It was fun, and the evacuee community began to enjoy the celebration. There was clapping and "Yahoos" as people celebrated with those who were reconnected.

It was near the end of the day yesterday just a few minutes before eight when the ACT Center was to be closed that an elderly gentlemen made a phone call on the cell phone of a volunteer to the hotel phone # listed online where his daughter might be staying. He was retired and after retirement and the death of his wife he moved in with his daughter and son-in-law. Last night was the first time they had talked to each other in over a week. When he walked in he was slow and almost shuffled. When he walked out he was waving his arms in the air and almost dancing. He grabbed that cow bell and rang it for the longest time. There was cheering and hugs between the elderly gentlemen and the volunteer he had met for the first time only a thirty minutes before. They both cried together. The room was full of clapping and cheers as he almost ran out of the room to pack his plastic grocery bag with the few belongings he had aquired since being evacuated from the Superdome. His daughter picked him up last night and the volunteers who assisted him slept better, knowing that they had a small part in restoring hope to man who had almost lost all hope.

Prior to finding a room in the hotel, his daughter had been living as an evacuee in the Reliant Arena, a building adjacent to the Astrodome. So close, yet separated by miles of grief and anxiety for over a week. Today, with the help of additional volunteers, TFA will lead an initiative to reconnect family members at two other sites. Community Technology Centers with about fifty computers each will be set up in the Reliant Arena and the Reliant Center. Each of these locations have over 5,000 residents. Many are separated from their families and loved ones. The model and best practices for reconnecting families that was developed at the ACT Center will be replicated at the Reliant Center and Arena. This will require the volunteer staffing and training of over 170 volunteers during all hours each of the sites are open. With funds yet unknown, TFA will be seeking to employ Tech and Program Coordinators for each site as well as volunteers to work with the members of the evacuee community. "This is the most rewarding work I have ever done," said the volunteer who assisted the elderly gentlemen who was reconnected with his daughter and son-in-law. To find loved ones click on www.familymessages.org or use the web crawler search at the top of the listing of links at http://news.yahoo.com/katrinahelp . CTCs and computer centers at relief sites across the country need to invite loved ones and survivors to go online, add information and reconnect. Share these links with relief center leaders and residents.

You too can assist mothers and fathers reconnect with their sons and daugthers. You too can do the detective work required to help brides and grooms of every age reconnect. Technology is only a tool. This work is about using the technology to rebuild lives and restore relationships, not just in a physical way, but also at a relational level. Many of the persons we have helped reconnect have learned to value their loved ones in ways never before experienced. Be a volunteer! Check in at the ACT Center on the bottom floor of the Astrodome at the South Entrance. We will train you and assign you to one of the sites. We especially need regular volunteers during the day and during the work week. The typical work shifts are 8 to 1, 12 to 5 and 4 to 9, but you can volunteer at any time during the day.

Today, I have a meeting with community technology leaders across the country to discuss the long and short term role of CTCs (community technology centers) in serving the evacuee community. Later today, I will be meeting with a TFA consultant who is assisting us in planning a training and education plan to assist the evacuee community that will be living in the Astrodome and the adjacent buildings. We believe that our responsibility to serve the evacuee community will continue on after all evacuees reconnect with or learn the fate of their loved ones.

Thanks for your support!

Will Reed

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Labor Day Reflections 

From 9 am to 8 p.m., the Astrodome Community Technology Center (ACT Center) was teaming with activity. New friends worked with one another to find loved ones, apply for FEMA assistance and unemployment, write emails to loved ones and reconnect with the world community. If you review the photos from the day, you will discover a room filled with people getting to know one another and building a new community plus a few photos of Oprah greeting the visitors to the Center.

Without the assistance of hundreds of volunteers who just show up, the ACT Center could not accomplish its mission to empower the evacuee community through the tools of technology. Many of the volunteers and evacuees have developed new friendships. When my colleague Jim Forrest and I left the dome last night at 9, there were several evacuees waiting at the door. One asked me if I had heard from the folks in Austin trying to locate her husband. I had not, but I told her that as soon as I had she would know. She thanked me and we wished each other a good night's sleep. Another told us that she had found the help she needed at the Center to find one family member, but she was still looking for her five children and her husband. Though she still did not know where most of her family was, she had a thankful smile on her face. It was a smile of hope grounded with the one succesful reconnection that the ACT Center has assisted her with.

Today will be another day of building new relationships and addressing the needs of the evacuee community through the tools of technology.

VOLUNTEER NEEDS - We continue to need volunteers to staff the ACT Center. For folks working in the morning, we ask that volunteers report around 8 am prior to the opening of the center. If you come later in the day, report to the Volunteer Program Coordinator for the day at the front desk. The Center is located at the bottom level in the Theatre Room at the South Entrance of the Astrodome.

Supply Needs - We need pens, pencils, paper for note writing, legal pads (8.5 x 11), anti-bacterial wipes, and cleaning supplies like Lysol and Windex. If you know a volunteer who will be reporting for duty, send along a few supplies. They will be greatly appreciated. Oh, by the way, if you have some reading glasses laying around the house we need those too. Many of the evacuees who use reading glasses lost them in the evacuation process. Reading glasses will help them to be able to complete forms, use the computer and catch up on the daily news.

Will Reed
Technology For All

Monday, September 05, 2005

More Success 

Today was one of more successes and a little excitement. The number of persons in the collective survivor/connector databases has grown dramatically as survivors input data at a multitude of sites across Houston, Texas, and the U. S. Yesterday, we cheered 2 or 3 times every hour. Today, a cheer went up every few minutes. People are making connections and discovering hope anew. There was the lady who discovered her husband was taken to a shelter in Austin. I called my friend Gene Crick in Austin, who is working to determine which shelter he was taken to. It is about working together. It is about hope and celebration.

We estimate another 1000+ persons came through the Center today and registered their information in the www.familymessages.org online database. Yahoo is now mirroring the site and it is much more dependable now. It was receiving so many hits yesterday, that it crashed regularly. Thank you Yahoo for making this possible. Plus, Yahoo created a web crawler for folks to use to search multiple sites collecting the names of Katrina survivors. Several hundred thousand survivors are located in over 200 shelters across the US. The main Yahoo Katrina help site is located at http://news.yahoo.com/katrinahelp . To search most of the survivor connector sites at once click on the "Search for Missing Persons" at the top of the page.

Other companies have stepemade donations include HP and IBM. Both companies donated wireless laptops for the project.

As we connect more families, the concerns shift to other things like finding jobs and affordable housing. Many have requested help with things like unemployment and FEMA. The next step will be job and skills training.

The other interesting thing that happened today involved a few visitors to the Center. We had a variety of television and media folks come by and talk with some of the evacuees. Good Morning America, Nightline, Oprah Winfrey and several local news stations came by.

We continue to need volunteers -- 8-1, 12-5, 4-9. Give Pam Gardner a call at 713.454.6400 or send her an email (Pam.Gardner@techforall.org ) . Thanks for your support! Let's work together to create some more hope!

Volunteers and Donations 

We will continue to need volunteers to assist members of the evacuee community to locate and reconnect with loved ones. The ACT Center is located at the bottom level of the Astrodome in the Theatre at the South Entrance. We now have over 90 connected computers in the dome and numerous individuals bringing laptops to connect to wireless. We don't yet know what Tuesday will bring, but we expect that for the long haul the ACT Center will need a Tech Coordinator and Program Coordinator volunteer for each day it is open along with at least 15 roving volunteers to assist and provide support to those using the ACT Center. Our concern is finding enough volunteers beginnning on Tuesday after Labor Day. If you can be a Tech or Program Coordinator or a Rover and are willing to take a shift (8-1, 12-5, or 4-9) on any day in the next two weeks, please let us know through an email to Pam.Gardner@techforall.org who will be coordinating volunteers begininng Tuesday am, the first day after the Labor Day holiday. She can be reached at our main #713.454.6400.

We anticipate the need to install additional conected computers. We have 90 connected at the Dome. However, we are in the process of figuring out the needs in other relief center locations and will keep folks posted. One of the things we have learned is that we need to be both flexible and nimble in addressing the needs of the evacuees. Thanks for your understanding.

On another note, we have shared lessons learned with the folks running CTC at the GR Brown Convention Center. They should be up and running soon.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Ring The Bell 

We did not have a bell, but today our volunteers and members of the Evacuee Community began a new tradition in the room. Everytime someone was reconnected with a family member or loved one, the room cheered. There were high fives and smiles and celebrations. Over 1,000 persons came through the ACT Center today. It was a good day!

The support from both the Evacuee Community and the community of care across the U. S. has been tremendous. Yahoo sent twenty volunteers from California. They were great! We have several volunteers who paid their own way from other states and we been overwhelmed with the support of Houston volunteers. Several in the evacuee community have become regular volunteers assisting those with limted computer skills. As I write this, there are over fifty volunteers that will be spending the night doing data entry of paper forms filled out by evacuees on the floor of the dome.

We have learned many lessons along the way and will share them with other sites across Texas and U.S. The most important work is the interaction between volunteers and evacuees as they search for loved ones. For many the conversation is therapeutic. The computers are only a tool. Thanks to each of you who have made this work possible, especially the hundreds of caring volunteers who sat with Houston's new residents.

This work will not be complete for many months. Now we are helping persons find loved ones. Tomorrow, the need will be housing, job training and searching, and for many, assimilation to life in a new hometown. Keep these folks in your thoughts and prayers. A new community is being birthed. It is a community that understands life is a gift!

Austin Helping New Orleans 

Our friends in Austin are working together on relief efforts as well. Thanks to Gary Chapman for sharing this with us. http://austinhelpingneworleans.org/

Reflections from the Floor 

The stories are heartbreaking. While I am working at a macro level, I am also able to observe the celebrations when members of the Evacuee Community find loved ones or experience the heartache of loved ones not found.

Yesterday, an older gentlemen without computer skills came into the ACT Center (Astrodome Community Technology Center) looking for his wife who he had not seen in five days. Through one of the online people connector sites and assistance from a caring volunteer, he discovered that his wife was on her way to the Astrodome from Louisiana to pick him up. At the Superdome they had gotten separated in the bus area. She ended up at another site in LA and he ended up at the Astrodome. He was distraught when came in and left with a huge smile on his face. Then there was another man, a 35ish young father who had not seen his wife and two daughters for three days. He was frantic to find them. He posted his information and looked for information about them on several connector sites. He did not find them. Emotions here range from numb to jubiliation. Hopefully, what all of these connector web sites and CTC projects at relief Center sites create is a greater chance that loved ones will be reunited with their families.

Technology For All has been working with FEMA here at the dome to expand their registration process. This is a critical issue now at all sites in addition to assisting with the locator process. TFA has been asked to assist at Houston's George R. Brown Convention Center with the development of another CTC there when the Telco orders are processed as well as other efforts including a digital story telling project with the University of Houston.

We will be working with Deaf Link at the dome this morning to operate a hearing impaired intake center. We have also been asked to assist with CTC development programs for San Antonio, Dallas, Ft. Worth as well as various other locations here in Houston. TFA will be working with other CTCs in Houston to expand local efforts at existing CTCs and CTCs we have under development at other relief centers. I thank my friend Gene Crick for his assistance in helping hand off the task of identifying local CTC/community networking point persons in other Texas cities that can help local Evacuee Community efforts there. Each of these sites in Houston and in other cities will need hardware, volunteers and $'s to pull this off. As we know the needs and who the point persons and organizations in other cities are, we will post it.

We are working closely with the Red Cross and Yahoo on integrating with many locator databases (http://www.familymessages.org/ http://www.msnbc.com/) as well as the home placement sites such as http://www.katrinahomes.org/ and http://www.katrinahousing.org/. We know of several other efforts to create a centralized database or web crawlers to pull disparate databases together. Our hope is that somehow everyone working on these "centralized projects" will begin to talk to each other and work together to create one solution. This is not about who can build a better database and get more "hits" and admiration for it. It is about working together to build a solution that works and helps these folks find their loved ones and start a new life in their new hometowns.

TFA is also beaming TFA-Wireless public access Wi-Fi to the floor of the dome to assist Motion Computing and the Red Cross with registration and the location of family members here at the dome. This will be a useful tool at other sites in other cities. We have taken on the responsibility of getting TFA-Wireless up at the sites here in Houston.

There has been overwhelming support in terms of time and resources from our community, business and of course our individual volunteers. The Red Cross database does need more EXPERIENCED volunteers for data entry here at the dome this morning. They are far behind and could use competent volunteer support. If you know interested parties please let us know by making a comment on this blog (click on the # below to make a comment) or send an email to Will.Reed@techforall.org . The ACT Center is located in the Astrodome on the bottom level at the south entrance. We are open this morning at 9AM. Any data entry volunteers can report there and we can get them to the Red Cross. We also continue to need volunteers locally to assist evacuees who are not computer literate to input people locator and FEMA information.

Thanks for your support!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

A Good Day 

Over 250 persons were assisted today by volunteers from the community at the ACT Center in Houston's Astrodome. Most persons were looking for dislocated friends and family. The Red Cross has a private database of the Evacuee Community under development. Individuals that are trying to locate family members are registering on www.familymessages.org . The ACT Center will be open tomorow from 9 am to 9 pm.

ACT Center Opens today at 1 p.m. 

Volunteers from collaborative partners around the city and across the country gathered for last minute instructions prior to opening the ACT Center today. Attending the meeting was Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu and his wife who greeted the volunteers and thanked everyone for assisting in this effort. The Evacuee Community is being encouraged to register online at www.familymessages.org a new site setup by the Red Cross to assist families to connect with each other.

ACT Center Volunteers 

After several hours of teamwork, the ACT Center volunteers rested for a group picture before going home last night. Many of the volunteers will return to the ACT Center today at 9 a.m. to finalize details for its opening this morning to serve the Evacuee Community.

More volunteers will be needed for staffing the ACT Center and opening and staffing CTCs under development at other locations around the City and in other Texas cities. To volunteer, contact Pam.Gardner@techforall.org .

ACT Center established 

The ACT Center (Astrodome Community Technology Center) was established last night as a service to the Evacuee Community with the assistance of a multitude of helpers. We thank Compucycle (www.compucycle.net) for preparing the initial 40 computers for installation, SimHouston (www.SimHouston.com ) for facilitating the utilization of their email and on-demand services for accessing files anytime anywhere, and SBC (www.sbc.com ) for their pull out the stops efforts to install DSL lines for the ACT Center and other communication needs at the dome.

Please forgive me if I have missed someone, but we are thankful for the yeoman efforts of individual helpers including Clive Hess and his CompuCycle team, TFA staff including Rosemarie Foster, Pam Gardner, Jim Forrest and Esther Schaefer, Marcus Brown and son Tyler from Envision Technologies, Danny Perry from TechCorps Texas, Marie Arcos and J. P. Cortez from the M.D. Anderson YMCA CTC, Robert Way from SimHouston, Travis and his SBC installation crew, Jim Segovia and Katie Beeden from SBC, Alice Aanstoos from SBC for facilitating many details, Doug Mischlich, Efrem Jernigan, Zach Casper, Bryan Snow, Corey Withersby, Victor Seaborn, Eric Pho, Ben Tran, Esteban Sanchez Vera, Paul Jackson, Nona, whose last name escapes me, and several more who volunteered annonymously.

Some of the volunteeers from last night and a new crew will arrive at 9 am this morning to finalize the opening of the ACT Center, make signs, and establish use procedures and an ongoing volunteer support plan. We thank Marie Arcos and Nona for leading that effort. Additional computers (40-50 laptops) are expected today. Plus, we learned last night that DSL lines are being installed for similar installations at several others sites around Houston. This will require more volunteers and more computers, plus a little cash. With all of the in-kind donations etc., we only spent about $750 to get the ACT center up and running. We have already had several computer donations for installation at the other sites.

We thank our friends at the community technology centers network (www.ctcnet.org ) and the Digital Divide Network (www.digitaldividenetwork.net ) for helping get the word out about this project which begining today will assist the Evacuee Community in making connections with missing relatives, apply for various assistance programs and participate in other meaningful activities. Together we are establishing a list of relevant links to assist and empower the evacuee community. Thanks to all for your help!!!!! If you can volunteer at the ACT Center to assist evacuees, please email Pam.Gardner@techforall.org . Pam is coordinating the volunteer shifts to staff the ACT Center.

Friday, September 02, 2005

CTC Installation begins at 3 p.m. 

Technology For All staff and volunteers will be meeting on the East (Fannin) side of the Astrodome at 3 p.m today, September 2, 2005 for the initial installation of 40 computers. Some will be utilized in the Astrodome press boxes by relief workers for administrative purposes and some will placed for public access. This is our initial installation and we believe we have plenty of volunteers for today. However, we will need many more volunteers in the days ahead. We are grateful to SBC (www.sbc.com ) for the installation of DSL lines and SimDesk (www.simdesk.com ) for productivity software on the computers. CompuCycle (www.compucycle.net ) prepared the computers for installation and will be delivering them at 3 p.m. We will need additional volunteers in the immediate future. Prospective volunteers can indicate their interest in an email to Pam.Gardner@techforall.org or by calling 713.454.6400. Computers received as donations today and after are being prepared for additional installations in the dome and in other locations.

Katrina Equipment and Other Needs 

In response to the needs of Hurricane Katrina victims, Technology For All and its corporate and community partners is undertaking an effort to expand existing CTCS and provide additional CTCs in places where Katrina evacuees will be living. Our initial installation under development at the Astrodome has enough committed resources, but we need much more for other sites.

Here is quick summary of what we need....
Pentium 4 or faster computers
SVGA Monitors
10/100 switches and routers
Money for connectivity, expendable supplies, software, etc.
Volunteers (contact Pam.Gardner@techforall.org )

Call TFA at 713.454.6400 for larger equipment donations. Online donations can be made at www.techforall.org. Individual equipment donations can be brought to our office at 2220 Broadway, Houston, Texas 77012. For a map go to http://www.techforall.org/directions.html

Katrina Response Update 

As of late last night, the Astrodome was full and evacuees were being diverted to other sites. We have an internal Technology For All (TFA) meeting this morning to update everyone working on the Astrodome Community Technology Center (CTC) project. The minor change in plans is that we now expect to be working on the development of CTCs at shelters and staging areas across the city in addition to the Astrodome.

In speaking late yesterday to our contact in the mayor's office, it is estimated that at least 100,000 persons will be scattered across the city in multiple long term shelters including the Astrodome, empty buildings, churches, and other sites. Helping to connect these folks to the outside world will extend beyond this emergency situation, because we expect many of these evacuees to stay as permanent residents in the area. Many of them are the poorest of the poor and will need additional assistance, training, support etc. Schools are accepting new students. Yesterday, for instance, my wife's school received 30 new students and they were over capacity before that. Many new students across the region could benefit from CTCs that provide after school programs near shelters and schools. Creating opportunities for digital stories of this ordeal could be both a cathartic and a learning experience for victims of Katrina. Using these computers for job training and searches will also be important. This is just the beginning.

The existing and rapidly expanding Houston CTC community will be asked to step up to the plate to prepare for the opportunity/challenge. We have had enough equipment, software, and connectivity donated for the initial installation at the dome, but we are going to need much more. Once all our donors have signed off (some have asked for anonymity), I will provide a summary of their donations. Thank you to each of you and your corporations/organizations who have already signed up to help.

Your help is needed. We now know we need additional equipment, connectivity, software, volunteers, and of course $'s. I will put a list of equipment needs on our blog at http://texasctcs.blogspot.com/ .
Cash contributions can be made online at www.techforall.org or by check to the address below.


William S. Reed
TECHNOLOGY FOR ALLĀ®/Technology For All-Houston
2220 Broadway
Houston, TX 77012
Tel: 713.454.6400 Direct: 713.454.6411 Fax: 713.454.6454
e-mail: Will.Reed@techforall.org
website: http://www.techforall.org
BLOG: http://texasctcs.blogspot.com/
"We Empower Communities"

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina Blog Digests 

Katrina Missing/Found Persons Digest
(sources: Craigslist, Nowpublic.com, NOLA.com) http://katrina05.blogspot.com/2005/09/katrina-missing-personsfound-persons.html

RSS: http://app.feeddigest.com/digest3/NISXSWRCYF.rss

Katrina News Digest
(Sources: Yahoo! News, NOLA.com, the Sun Herald, the Times-Picayune, etc) http://katrina05.blogspot.com/2005/09/katrina-news-digest.html

RSS: http://app.feeddigest.com/digest3/XGLM0GL614.rss

Katrina Blogosphere Digest
(Sources: Technorati searches for "Katrina," "Hurricane," "New Orleans,"

RSS: http://app.feeddigest.com/digest3/OQTOVYUXOL.rss


This morning I attended a meeting of religious and community leaders at Second Baptist Church. Present in the audience were leaders from Houston's diverse religious community. Included were Christians of all varieties, Jews, Muslims, Budhists, Unitarians, Hindus etc. Those that gathered committed to raise the millions of dollars and volunteers necessary to feed the 25,000 evacuees from New Orleans that will soon be making the Astrodome their new home for the next several months. This is a monumental effort. A United Way Katrina Food Relief Fund has been established to raise funds for the Project call "OPERATION COMPASSION." Contributions can be sent through your church, synagogue or religious group or sent directly to the United Way account which has been established at Chase Bank as Account #00113475207.
The United Way of the Texas Gulf Coast mailing address is:

P. O. Box 924507
Houston, Texas 77018-8015

CTC at the Astrodome 

Technology For All(TFA) is working with its community and corporate partners to set up a Community Technology Center (CTC) at Houston's Astrodome, which will soon be home for 25,000 evacuees from the New Orleans Superdome. We are pleased to have the opportunity to help in this way and have made an initial commitment to install a 40 station CTC. We expect we will need to expand that, but want to move quickly with what we can do and then assess the additional need. TFA also anticipates working with public leaders and officials to assist in the deployment of a Wireless Mesh Network in the Astrodome. Those details are under discussion. Pam Gardner (Pam.Gardner@techforall.org 713.454.6415) on our staff is coordinating volunteer efforts to set up the CTC and then provide programming assistance. TFA will need additional computers (Pentium 4 or faster), software, volunteers, $'s and organizational capacity to pull this off. Thanks in advance for your assistance. As more details are worked out we will pass them along.

Katrina Survivor-Connector List 

Over 8000 names have already been recorded in the Katrina-Survivor connector list online . It has been created by www.gulfcoastnews.com . If you are looking for someone or have found someone alive, please log on to the list.

Katrina Blog 

Andy Carvin, of the Digital Divide Network www.digitaldivide.net , has created a blog to address a multitude of issues related to Katrina including locating missing persons. The blog is located at
http://katrina05.blogspot.com/ .

2004 CTC of the Year Assists Katrina Victims 

Macedonia Outreach and Career Center of Houston (MOCC) was TFA's 2004 community technology center of the year. MOCC and Wright-Way Community Development Corporation of Cleveland, Liberty County Texas are both 501c3 tax exempt organizations who are currently collaborating to provide services in support of the victims of hurricane Katrina. Macedonia, of Houston Texas is presently serving 16 families from New Orleans and Wright-Way of Cleveland, Texas is presently seeking services for 125 victims for victims from New Orleans and Louisiana counties who are in desperate need of both daily hygiene supplies, food and housing support. Macedonia has room for approximately 150 people to provide temporary shelter at one of their collaborating service centers, located at 7111 Homestead.
For more information contact Macedonia Outreach and Career Center at 713.674.8898.

Tracy Shipman
Macedonia Outreach and Career Center
3110 Tidwell
Houston, TX 77093

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