BILOXI, Miss. – Students who want to volunteer in the Mississippi Hurricane Katrina recovery effort during their 2006 spring break need to come with a plan and a volunteer agency or faith based group affiliation before making the trip.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) and U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) encourage volunteer participation in the disaster recovery but advise students to plan ahead so they can provide the most help in their brief time away from classes.

“We appreciate those who have volunteered to assist in the recovery efforts throughout our state and we welcome other volunteers,” said Robert Latham, director of MEMA. “We encourage them to affiliate with a group who will match an individual’s skills with productive projects, to make the most of their time here.”

Currently, there are more than 100 voluntary organizations serving in Mississippi.

Students may find and register with these voluntary organizations through the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service at www.mcvs.org. They can also locate them at www.idealist.org, and www.usafreedomcorps.gov, which provides a special page of volunteer opportunities in the hurricane-affected areas.

“Students need to come here with a real mission, a real focus,” said David Turner, voluntary agency liaison for FEMA. “If they don’t have that they’ll waste their time and the resources available to the victims such as housing and even food.”

Students also need to know about the post-hurricane conditions in Mississippi.

Some areas are still dangerous so students need to be extremely careful.

Accommodations are in short supply along the Mississippi coast, so many voluntary and faith-based organizations are providing limited but adequate sleeping facilities as well as meals.

Organizations match needs with volunteer skill sets; volunteers with construction or equipment skills are in high demand.

FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates mitigation activities, works with state and local emergency managers, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.

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