Calvin Johnson

It was registration week at the University of New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit. Calvin Johnson had not yet attended his first class, but had moved half his stuff into his new dorm room, leaving the other half in his parent’s house. The storm flooded his family’s home with over 12 feet of water, destroying everything – including his beloved saxophone. His dorm was not flooded but looted.

Johnson, who comes from a family of New Orleans musicians, became a nomad, traveling across the country from place to place. When he returned to New Orleans, he found it nearly impossible to find affordable housing.

Then he heard about Habitat for Humanity, a charity that was building homes in New Orleans East in a development called “Musicians Village” to house displaced performers. Johnson is now one of the 80 residents who live in the six-block Village. The project was largely funded by a $4 million gift from the Qatar Katrina Fund.


Rosa Bustamante-Forest

When the storm struck, Rosa Bustamante-Forest had to leave New Orleans. Upon her return she found that her home was not badly damaged, but like thousands of others had to commute to Baton Rouge for work. Then she heard about a new program looking for staff.

Rosa left her teaching post at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center to become a nurse and program manager with the March of Dimes.

The March of Dimes, funded through a grant from the Qatar Katrina Fund, provided mobile medical units offering free prenatal and postpartum care to any mother and baby who came to them. Funds from Qatar enabled March of Dimes to buy three units and also covered all the operational costs, salaries, gas, supplies, and any medical costs not paid for by the patient’s insurance. If the patient had no insurance—and many didn’t— a clinic and money from the grant paid the costs. “It was really moving,” Bustamante-Forest recalls. “The unit became a safe, cozy place for women to congregate and tell their stories.”


Stacy Horn Koch

When Hurricane Katrina hit Stacy Horn Koch was running Covenant House, a shelter for youths. She immediately turned the shelter into a community hub that provide aid, clinics, and any form of assistance. The center is located right beside the Tremé/Lafitte neighborhood in New Orleans.

Tremé/Lafitte is embedded with 300 years of New Orleans culture and heritage, a neighborhood where music like jazz and brass band evolved and took form. The area is a core part of the New Orleans’ soul. But as Koch puts it, “hurricanes are equal opportunity destroyers” and Tremé was no exception.

With more than half of the homes in Tremé destroyed after Katrina hit, people felt like they had no place to come back to. This is when people like Koch and the Tremé/Lafitte Renewal Project stepped in.

With a $2.5 million donation from the Qatar Katrina Fund, the project provided hundreds of low-income homeowners with grants averaging around $24,000 to help rebuild and repair their homes. The project also gave free home ownership training and counseling to the people of the community and helped make Tremé healthy once again.


Reverend Willie Gable

Reverend Willie Gable life, like many in the region, was forever changed by Hurricane Katrina. His church, home, and three buildings operated by his organization were all battered by the storm.

Gable, a pastor in downtown New Orleans, also runs the Dr. Murphy W. McCaleb Education Fund, one of 63 agencies that make up UNITY, a New Orleans collaborative that provides housing for chronically homeless people and those who struggle with substance or alcohol abuse. With the fund’s buildings damaged and evacuated, those in need had nowhere to go.

A $2 million grant from the Qatar Katrina Fund allowed Gable and the fund to renovate and rebuild, and even construct a brand new 43-unit building. UNITY’s motto is “Bringing New Orleans Home” – through dedicated people like Reverend Gable and the Qatar Katrina Fund, UNITY was able to do just that.


Gary Marchand

Gary Marchand, CEO and president of Memorial Hospital of Gulfport, Mississippi, was on duty when Katrina struck. He would spend the two weeks that followed at the hospital, unable to see his family.

During the aftermath of Katrina, Memorial became a community shelter for southern Mississippi, providing food, water, nursing services and pharmaceuticals to everyone and anyone who walked through their doors.

The hospital transformed some of its wings into dormitories, providing bedding for volunteers and staff. Hundreds of hospital employees lost their homes in Katrina. Many worked and lived at Memorial for weeks or even months afterward. Marchand referred to these long hard days as a time where “everyone had compassion for everyone else… the humanity rose in people”.

The Qatar Katrina Fund worked with Memorial to establish the $10.8 million Qatar Hope Fund. The fund enabled Memorial to directly aid thousands of uninsured patients affected by the hurricane, and turn Memorial into a level II trauma center and Mississippi’s first primary stroke center.

“The Qatari’s are interwoven into our success,” says Marchand. “We’ve advanced medicine in the state of Mississippi over the last 10 years, and Qatar is part of that story.”


Dr. Norman Francis

Dr. Norman Francis served as president of Xavier University for 47 years prior to his retirement in 2015. A native of Louisiana, he is no stranger to hurricanes and had never fled his home for one before Katrina. It would be no different this time.

Dr. Francis stayed in New Orleans and watched as both his home and his university were badly flooded. He immediately started working on getting Xavier back on track, somehow managing to reopen the university on January 17, 2006.

Katrina damaged New Orleans’ universities in other ways – parents no longer wanted to send their kids to school there and enrollment figures plunged for four years. To aid with student enrollment, the Qatar Katrina Fund and Xavier University established the $17.5 million Qatar Katrina Fellowship Fund, offering scholarships to hundreds of students in need and building the Qatar Pavilion – the new home to Xavier’s College of Pharmacy.

Xavier has always been a school recognized for graduating the best African American students in pharmacy and premed.

“You walk into any pharmacy in New Orleans, just ask, ‘What year did you graduate from Xavier?’ Don’t have to ask if they graduated from Xavier, they all did. That money from Qatar helped many of those students get their degrees,” said Dr. Francis.


Chad Cramer

Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans the day Chad Cramer was supposed to start his first day at Tulane. Having grown up in Slidell, Louisiana, it was always Cramer’s plan to back to schools at Tulane.

By the time Tulane reopened, Cramer who had been so focused so helping his community recovery and repair, he had no financial plan for school. He wasn’t alone. Tulane’s enrollment had plunged because many students were in need of financial assistance.

Tulane, working with the Qatar Katrina Fund, established the $10 million Qatar Tulane Scholars Fund. The fund provided scholarships to students from Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi who suffered losses from the hurricane – including Cramer, whose architecture studies were covered by a scholarship.

“To have someone come in and say, ‘We are going to pay for your education’ was just amazing,” he said. I remember when I got the letter saying that I had received the grant, I had tears in my eyes.” Cramer was the first person of his immediate family to graduate from college (and he did so with honors). He is now an urban designer with the City of New Orleans.


Christina Luwisch

In describing her affection for New Orleans, Christina Luwisch says, “you fall in love with the people, the food, the music.” Even after Hurricane Katrina destroyed her home, that did not change.

For Luwisch and her family, returning home was never a question; it was their city. She spent the next year living in her grandparents’ home and before starting her studies at Loyola University. However, with her family’s resources all going into rebuilding their devastated house, Luwisch was unsure if she would be able to afford college.

She discovered that the Qatar Katrina Fund had stepped in to create the $1.4 million Qatar Loyola Scholarship Fund.

“That someone in another country that I’d never met would decide to help me, it was just astonishing,” Luwisch says. “They made a profound impact on my life and the life of my family. It was…a complete game changer.”

The scholarship provided Luwisch and other students directly affected by Katrina with the opportunity for a great education. Inspired by the kindness of these strangers, Luwisch now works as assistant director of the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center, part of the Loyola College of Law.

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