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Determined Portlander, OHSU Employee Helps Build Free Clinic For Katrina's Neediest In New Orleans  

Thanks to a leadership workshop and 28 very determined people, a free health clinic is being built in the poorest and one of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina, the 9th Ward of New Orleans.

Kristina Brand, a videographer from Oregon Health & Science University Educational Communications, and a group of men and women from throughout the United States, attended a workshop in April designed to teach leadership. They call themselves LC3, which stands for Leaders Creating Change Through Contribution. They were challenged to create change through contribution. The group decided they wanted to go to New Orleans and build something to help the Hurricane Katrina victims. They called Common Ground Collective in New Orleans and asked what they could to do help. The collective's mission is to provide short term relief for victims of hurricane disasters in the Gulf Coast region, and long term support in rebuilding the communities affected in the New Orleans area.

The woman who answered the phone at Common Ground, said they could come there and build a free health clinic in the 9th Ward, where many people don't have health insurance.

"She was used to people asking what they could do to help and then never calling back. But we said, 'Sure, we'll do it.' We said we'd raise $30,000 and get the clinic built," Brand said.

And they've almost done it.

A nurse from the 9th Ward donated her flood-damaged house. Home Depot donated supplies,  and the LC3 group is close to their $30,000 goal.

On June 3, some 30 volunteers, including Brand's mother, Debbie Brand of Philomath, Ore., landed in New Orleans and began work on gutting, bleaching out the mold, and renovating the house at 5228 St. Claude. It is called the Common Ground, Lower 9th Ward Health Clinic.

"It's been amazing," said Kristina Brand.
Besides Brand's group, local New Orleans contractors have come by with their crews after a full day's work and volunteered their time. College students on summer break have joined in the clinic project and members of Common Ground are helping with labor.

"This is going to be the only free, operational health care facility in that ward. The people in this ward are not quite poor enough to get Medicare and Medicaid, and not rich enough to afford private health insurance, Brand said. She has not been able to go to New Orleans because of work.

Brand's mother, Debbie said from the work site, "You can't believe how this has touched us emotionally. Everybody I've talked to as we frequent the local gas station, or buy ice or stay at the local motel - everywhere I go - we talk to people and spread the word that we're building a free health clinic here. You can't believe the responses. There's not a finer group of people or place on earth.  These are people who have lost everything. They're so thankful because there's nothing here. Everybody I look at smiles back at me. The tears well up in people's eyes. They are the kindest people I've ever met." She recently returned to Oregon.

The LC3 group will create a database of clinicians who will volunteer at the clinic.

"We want to be able to continue assisting," Kristina Brand said. The clinic is expected to be finished in July.

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