In accepting an invitation to tour the still-devastated areas of New Orleans, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Garner and about 30 other Hollywood women – actors, directors, musicians, activists and philanthropists – received a heartbreaking first-hand look at the ongoing struggles in the area, more than seven months after Hurricane Katrina hit. The recent trip, sponsored by the Children’s Defense Fund and organized by founder Marion Wright Edelman, focused on the ravaged Lower Ninth Ward, the New Freedom School and a makeshift hospital. Here are some of their accounts.
The night before the trip, Garner rocked 5-month-old Violet to sleep before leaving her with husband Ben Affleck. It was her first time away from her first child.
“I didn’t want to leave her, but I thought to myself, ‘People in New Orleans love their children as much as I love mine and I might be able to help there,’ ‘ she says “I’m talking to my husband all day long to see how our baby is. Our children are brought into privilege, but you know that this kind of catastrophe could happen anywhere.”
Garner, 32, listened as single dad Douglass Chambers spoke at the New Freedom School about how his son, Douglass junior, 11, was falling behind in his studies since the storm. “He told about going from teacher to teacher and to counselors,” she says. “He was not going to leave any stone unturned to help his child.”