Thompson assists with relief efforts in Alabama

J.W. Thompson, an irrigation technician in Elon’s landscaping department, traveled to southwest Alabama Oct. 7-11 with Friends Disaster Service to assist with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. Thompson used a Project Pericles service sabbatical to make the trip, the second of three relief visits he plans to make this year.

Thompson and a group of about 10 people helped restore the Mowa Choctaw Friends Academy, a kindergarten school located about 45 miles north of Mobile, Ala. Thompson said the school suffered wind and rain damage from the hurricane, which struck Aug. 29. The group cleared brush, repaired roof damage and fixed up the school’s basketball court.

Many of the students who attend the school are poor, and Thompson said it was gratifying to spend time with the children and bring a sense of normalcy back to their lives.

“The best thing we did was play with the kids,” said Thompson, who is scheduled to leave Oct. 16 for more relief work in Louisiana. “We played football and basketball with them, and I think it helped them to get their minds off what has happened.”

Thompson became involved with Friends Disaster Service through his membership at Cane Creek Friends Meeting in Snow Camp, N.C. The Quakers of North Carolina’s Young Adult Committee has arranged several relief trips along with Friends Disaster Service. Thompson used a portion of his Project Pericles service sabbatical in April to travel to western North Carolina to assist with Hurricane Ivan cleanup.

The trips have touched Thompson. “Seeing how poor some of these areas are to begin with, and then seeing what a storm does to the people there, it was an eye-opener and a reality check for me.”