Rob Gaudet is an engineer by trade, but ever since flooding started in Louisiana last month, he’s been in an office, coordinating efforts by the newly coined, citizen-led Cajun Navy.
Gaudet didn’t start the Cajun Navy; he found the organic and thriving group already operating on Facebook. At first he wanted to go into the field to help rescue people. But he soon saw he could bring his organizational skills to further the mission in a bigger way.
And what is the mission of this peculiarly named group? Composed of volunteers, the Cajun Navy formed to rescue people stranded in their homes after deluges saturated southern Louisiana over seven days in August. Group members refused to wait for FEMA, got their own boats and began coordinating with local officials to launch rescue missions. The Cajun Navy has helped hundreds.
The Cajun Navy operates by leveraging technology to its advantage. People requested help on their Facebook pages and, working alongside law enforcement, the group used applications like Zello, a walkie-talkie app, to find them. Meanwhile, a woman in Illinois acted as dispatcher.
Gaudet believes the flooding wasn’t receiving sufficient media attention, so the Cajun Navy launched a campaign to change that.
“We weren’t waiting for the media to tell our stories, we told them ourselves,” Gaudet told Everyday Heroes.
Thanks to that strategy, the narrative has changed.
“We’re getting more media attention now than [during the flooding],” he said, “and it’s thanks to the Cajun Navy.”
And just because the flood waters have receded doesn’t mean the need isn’t vast. Now the biggest threat to the area is mold setting in on the homes. The Cajun Navy is trying to build a volunteer army to help clean up.
“This is a big deal — 120,000 homes were destroyed. It’s staggering,” Gaudet said. “To fix that, we need an enormous volunteer effort.
It’s more than the homes that are at stake; it’s peoples’ memories, too. The family keepsakes, the memorabilia, the heirlooms. All are at risk of being lost to the mold.
“We basically have 60 days to save memories,” Gaudet said, “and we need as many volunteers as we can get.”
Are you in the region or able to help the Cajun Navy? They need you. Go to CajunNavyFoundation.org to let them know you’re here.