A Project for Students and Citizens

Posts Tagged ‘Gulf of Mexico’

Helping the bayou starts at its roots

In Bayou La Batre on June 28, 2013 at 10:46 pm
Laney Payne instructs an antsy Bible class at Hemley Church of Christ. (Photo by Nathan Simone)

Laney Payne instructs an antsy Bible class at Hemley Church of Christ. (Photo by Nathan Simone)

By Nathan Simone / COMMUNITY REPORTER

It may not be sufficient to say that the bayou has received another angel.

With the arrival of Laney Payne May 30, Bayou La Batre welcomed a new helper to the Hemley Church of Christ, a collaborator in trying to find sustainable innovations for Gulf seafood and a friend to neighbors and younger adults in the surrounding region.

Payne has been living and working at Hemley Street side-by-side with Church of Christ co-founder Daphne German and Billy Spaulding, who opened the church in 2003.

According to German, Payne has meshed right in with the church’s mission and sought to help wherever and whenever she is needed.

“Laney is a godsend,” German said. “What are we going to do when she’s gone?”

The food pantry of Hemley Church of Christ is only open Monday and Tuesday. (Photo by Nathan Simone)

The food pantry of Hemley Church of Christ is only open Monday and Tuesday. (Photo by Nathan Simone)

Aside from specific duties like assisting with handing out food via the church’s pantry or teaching Bible school on Sundays, Payne has reached out to the local youth population to host sleepovers and plan athletic events.

One such event was a sleepover for high school aged girls, held at the church the weekend of June 14.

Payne said she and the girls had a fun night tie-dying t-shirts (all of which said “Bayou Blessed”) and playing while also discussing tough issues such as teen pregnancy, continuing education beyond high school and how they could use their talents to improve Bayou La Batre.

In her time away from Hemley Street, Payne has been involved in helping an oyster farming class proceed along with the instruction of Dr. Bill Walton, assistant professor and marine fisheries extension specialist at Auburn University. The classes alternate between being held on Dauphin Island and at Delta Port Marina in Coden.

Walton’s focus has been working with “farming” oysters in the rich waters of the Gulf of Mexico by transplanting juvenile oysters to wire baskets that stay suspended in the water column. The unique device, called an upweller, also allows the oysters to be removed from the water and sun-dried once a week, killing barnacles and seaweed that can impede growth.

One of the class’s members is Rosa Zirlott, co-founder and employee of the Organized Seafood Association of Alabama. Zirlott said that the classes so far have been intriguing.

“I’m one of those types that if I’m going to tell someone to do something, I have to do it first,” Zirlott said. “So far, it’s been interesting and challenging.”

Rosa Zirlott (left) talks with Laney Payne about the work of OSA. (Photo by Nathan Simone)

Rosa Zirlott (left) talks with Laney Payne about the work of OSA. (Photo by Nathan Simone)

One of the most important lessons Payne said she has learned is the value of investing in people. She realizes that money will always be an issue for starting and stopping projects, but that to really build community and empower others doesn’t cost a thing.

“To invest in someone and take a personal interest in them is free,” Payne said. “But the benefits to all involved can be tremendous.”

From simply talking to people and discussing their daily lives, Payne said she’s gained more of an insight as to how life works down in the bayou.

“It’s a world away from Auburn, but I can identify with almost everybody,” Payne said. “They have down-home values just like I was raised with, and want the same things out of life.”

In a relatively short amount of time, Payne has gone from being known as “that girl from Auburn” to being known by name and good works.

As long as Payne continues her forward path helping others and learning about life in coastal Alabama, the bayou will continue to be blessed with another angel.

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Bayou La Batre: Week Three

In Bayou La Batre on June 21, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Angela Cleary is living democracy in Bayou La Batre, Alabama.  Originally from Birmingham, she is a senior majoring in interdisciplinary studies at Auburn University.  Living Democracy is a yearlong collaboration between students and citizens on issues that matter to local communities.

I am collaborating with Boat People SOS and local citizens to address some complicated, wicked problems–problems that are difficult to solve. One prevalent problem they are facing is a low morale in the community atmosphere. There have been hardships and disasters, one after another, that leave citizens feeling hopeless. They feel like they cannot catch a break and are victims of their circumstances.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina not only left physical destruction and holes in the community, but also emotional destruction and holes in the morale of local citizens. Stores, homes, trees, and boats were destroyed by this natural disaster. The people of Bayou La Batre were left to pick up the broken pieces and attempt to physically, mentally, and emotionally rebuild.

A few years later, before fully recovering from Katrina, the Deepwater Horizon Oil spill shocked the fishing industry in 2010. This disaster kept the fishing and tourists industries from making a significant income. Boats were told not go out and business off the Gulf of Mexico was paralyzed. The effect wasn’t simply while the oil was spilling, but also hindered the entire season. There is still a lack of consumer confidence that has hurt the amount of business Bayou La Batre sees. These two major catastrophes have had direct and indirect contributions to pessimistic attitudes around this coastal community.

The loss of homes, stores, and industry business and support has caused negativity in the community. Unemployment and loss of commerce causes citizens to be mentally stressed, have high anxiety, or become depressed.  They cannot afford to pay their bills, get groceries, or make ends meet, much less afford luxuries that most people have become accustomed to. This financial stress leads to drug and alcohol abuse, higher crime rates, mental illness, and other problems. These compound the low morale of a community.  These problems and their symptoms are the epitome of a wicked problem. They have no clear cause, and no clear solution.

Wicked problems require innovative approaches since they have multiple causes and effects. It is important they are handled on a local scale in order to empower a community rather than handicap it. People from outside the community have brought service providers to the Bayou, but there are also local grassroots organizations that are working to solve the problem of low morale.

Bayou HOPE’s purpose is to “empower youth, empower community.” The program facilitates conversation among middle school and high school students for project ideas that would better their community. The youth are achieving a voice in the way their actions contribute to the bigger picture of community development. It boosts their confidence and morale to have them take leadership positions.

The project engages and partners young and old community members in positive and productive activities. They are working together and collaborating to bridge the generational gap. These activities make people see that they need to be the change they want to see.

Bayou HOPE has been concentrating their efforts on getting approval for a beautification project in the heart of the Bayou. This will create a visual of inspiration and pride for the citizens of the city. Even the actual community events to create the project will boost social capital and therefore create a more positive morale.