A Camp Sister Spirit experience
by Lady Astarte
On February 18th through ice and snow, a small group of people with willing hands and loving hearts loaded up a 5' X 8' trailer and a Suburban to take supplies of food, water, essential oils, herbs, personal care items, first aid items, clothing, coats, blankets, pet food and supplies, and camping equipment to Camp Sister Spirit in Ovett, Mississippi to assist the Katrina survivors.
Before we left, we were treated to a wonderful luncheon with hot soup and homemade cornbread, veggies and homemade cookies. It was a lovely treat to start off the trip. We visited with beloved friends in a loving home environment. Little did we know how much we would need that loving, family time to gird us for what we were soon to encounter. I thank Lady Rhiannon and all those who came.
We traveled over 1,000 miles in two days, but it was worth every minute. Three women and a child bonded in a once in a lifetime experience. We sang songs and told stories and swapped dreams and life goals. We grew in support of one another and in a love for community service.
As we got closer to Ovett, there was devastation everywhere. The land was ravaged, and there were still large pools of moldy, stagnant water everywhere. You could see mattresses and bathtubs and debris strewn along the side of the roads in the few places where the water had receded. There were huge, full-grown trees, pulled up and crashed intro homes, cars, and businesses. There were even impressions left in vehicles and homes where they had fallen.
Most of the homes that had been hit by this natural disaster were just canvas alleys. The houses had huge portions missing and everywhere, as far as one could see, the structures were covered with blue tarps in place of roofs. You could clearly see families with no electricity or plumbing, cold and hungry, surviving in tents inside what was left of their homes because there is no longer any room at the inns and hotels. They had been turned back into the elements to survive. Insurance companies don't cover natural diasaters, so it is up to each family to survive in hopes of getting long awaited assistance from the government.
There are few jobs and few stores, so to finding a way to make money to survive is difficult and only do-able if you have transportation to get you North of the disaster area for jobs and supplies.
Can you imagine that everything, and I mean everything you own is now destroyed and washed away or under so much water it is not accessible or usable? Can you imagine having no food, no supplies, no warmth, and hungry, scared children with very little assistance to help them? Can you imagine the feeling of isolation and abandonment as you wait and wait and wait for things to get better? And you are doing what you can, but it's not enough, and no help is coming, or what is coming is just enough to get through a few hours at a time?
There were areas where the land itself was angry. There were areas where the anguish of the people was profound. There were areas where both could be felt, and there were areas of confused and angry and scared energies that had collected in certain spots that just needed to cross the Veil. I know there are more areas that we didn't even know about.
There was one area where the mold was so bad that I couldn't breathe through the van with the windows shut, and my eyes were watering. I was coughing. But as soon as we turned onto the land at Camp Sister Spirit, I could breathe easily, and my spirits were lifted. These women have been incredible caretakers of their land with the few resources available to them. The land had been aerated and was not moldy. The ponds were clean. They were turning over gardens and were starting seeds indoors for herbs, fruits, and vegetables.
They have an animal sanctuary for pets they are nursing back to health. Madeline was able to play with a pig and a baby goat, and I had to have my moments playing with them as well. They were so cute!
The facilities there are very nice, they have cabins with heat and air conditioning, very comfortable mattresses and bedding, and a wonderful shower and bathroom facilities that were clean and very modern. The kitchen was homey and large and had three separate sinks for handwashing, vegetable washing, and dishwashing.
They had a wonderful craft room where they make the most beautiful bamboo and gemstone wands to sell. They had hand crafted Venus Willendorf’s and beautiful handmade gemstone jewelry for sale.
There is a Goddess Grotto on the property that had a Willendorf growing out of the back of the grotto you could easily see the exact Willendorf form. It was a breathtaking site to behold!
Then we took a tour of the facility where we saw Hecate's pomegranate garden that had a tree growing down sideways on the ground with a visible three-way split tree trunk. The facility also, grows grapes on the property, but they were three days away from harvesting when Katrina hit.
They had a beautiful ritual area with discernable quarter elementals.
Then we saw the drumming circle, and it really moved me. It was a very large circular area with tree posts all around it and a huge center fire pit. You could close your eyes and see many wonderful and exciting rhythmic drumming circles that had been held there.
Now, I saved the best for last. They had this incredible wall that had been built by some women from Australia. It had a large snake from beginning to end and smack dab in the middle of it was a large painting that read “Sisterhood Is Powerful!” How cool was that! I got lots of pictures of that wall. It had signatures and blessings from everyone who had stayed there. They had meticulously rebuilt it after the hurricane.
But as wonderful as it was to meet the women who have born the mantle of this tremendous responsibility to help Mississippi and the New Orleans areas rebuild, nothing touched me more deeply than when they reached out and hugged each one of us, individually and whispered in our ears in a tearful expression, “Please don't forget us!" I felt like we were the first outside hand that had come down there to give them a hug and say,"We know you are here and we want to help."
They have received some donations and still need them, but they also need and deeply want people to come down and help with the gardens. They said, "Just come down and help us work in the gardens, and you can stay in the cabins, and we'll share what food we have with you. We just need the hands and the help.” I knew Cynthia, Dorian, and Madeline had already planned to go down there and spend a part of their vacation doing just that. I plan to go back as well.
As far as the survivors’ needs, all I can tell you is that they are cold, and there are little to no supplies. They are hungry. They unloaded our supplies, and even though we were initially pleased that we could carry quite a bit with us, after seeing the reality of their need, we knew it wouldn't last very long. The camp itself was down to about 10 jars of peanut butter and some pancake mix, which they shared with us for breakfast.
You should have seen them as we unloaded the van. They ooh-ed and aah-ed at all the supplies and how nice they were. They got misty eyed. Then they quickly planned who needed the supplies the most, setting aside a portion to take to Louisiana where there was more need. They explained to us that the reason their supplies were so low was because the local Baptist church had turned away some Presbyterians because they were not Baptists. Andie and Terry, the women of Camp Sister Spirit, got the word out for the people to come to them when they received this news. They shared everything they had. These women are amazing. They share everything that comes through their door.
We were also told that 250,000 gallons of oil had been donated and sent to the Mississippi area by one of the major oil companies. It was never delivered because it was rerouted for emergency vehicle use by FEMA.
To date they have not received one penny from the other pagan agency to whom Knoxville Pagans have sent regular donations. They have not even returned their calls or emails, I believe it is called Avalon Cares. I realize there is only so much money, and that there is a great need. Let's hope that eventually some of the donations to Avalon Cares will trickle down to Camp Sister Spirit. I do not feel led to expand on this. I just hope that Camp Sister Spirit gets help from our central pagan agency.
All in all I was deeply moved and very grateful to everyone who extended their hearts and hands to assist with this project. The four of us who went to represent the East Tennessee Area were Astarte of Sisterhood Is Powerful, Airadia of Morristown, Cynnelore of East Tennessee Moon Daughters, and Madeline from the Girl Scouts. We pledged to continue support for the next two years until these areas could rebuild. It is a promise we intend to keep.
I am moved beyond words by the love we took down there, and the blessing we left with the fertile Earth from our mountains. I am forever changed by the experience with my new sisters, with the community that helped, and with the experiences we had while we were there. I am forever motivated by the Robin Hood warrior women with the kindest hearts you can imagine at Camp Sister Spirit!
To everyone that helped, I love you for helping. To all those who are helping, perhaps not with this project but helping the survivors in your own way, Goddess bless you! To Andie, Terry, and Keri at Camp Sister Spirit, I salute and admire you!
My last thought on this profound experience is a question. Could you live this way? How easily could this be you? Wouldn’t you want someone to reach out and show they care? The storms, as we all know, can come again at any time, so I hope we can band together to help others while we can. If this affects us in the future, we will know how to love, care, and help each other.
Bright blessings, and may we all learn the lessons of humility and love taught in this Mother Earth hearts and hands endeavor.
The next effort is scheduled for Saturday April 8th from 11:00-1:00. We are trying to raise enough funds to send the rest of the herbs on the original list started in November and to finish stocking their medicine chests along with food, water, pet supplies and seeds for fruits and vegetables or actual plants that have been started. I really hope to see you there!
Remember you can send a PayPal donation at www.motherearthoils.com for the herbs. You can send a financial donation to www.campsisterspirit.com so that Andie and Terry can buy food as close as possible to their locale to help spur the local economy.