South Mississippians Welcome Tsunami Survivors

An open dialogue on surviving a natural disaster was the focus of a special ceremony in Biloxi Monday night.

Leaders from South Mississippi welcomed delegates from India who survived the massive 2004 Asian Tsunami. The men and women traveled to the coast to compare notes on how their communities survived disaster.

"By going there, I learned so much about the government, how they mobilize, the caste system and how powerful the women are," says Sharon Hanshaw.

Hanshaw is with the Coastal Women for Change, a group formed after Hurricane Katrina. She says it's her mission to address recovery issues effecting women and her hard work got her an invitation to India.

"To see them work as hard as they do for their freedom and their rights and to be moving activists gave me the spiritual uplift that I needed," Hanshaw said.

Gerald Taylor was another South Mississippian who made the trip to India. He says while the devastation in Asia is greater than that of the coast, the spirit of the people is the same.

"If you remember anything about the freedom struggle, the movement in the United States, that's what it reminded me of. There was great spirits in the places that we went to and the areas and there would be meeting of people of 200 people to meet with us to tell there own stories and sing their own freedom song about their efforts to make a difference in their country," Taylor said.

He says it's the same struggle many are facing on the Coast.

"The people who need support, the basic indigenous people who have lived here for generations who find themselves now being pushed out, that those things are universal disasters and to develop a way to make sure that that doesn't happen to anybody again, in any type of disaster," says Taylor.

The 2004 Asian Tsunami killed more than 300,000 people. Thousands more are still missing.

The delegates from India just returned from New Orleans and they will tour South Mississippi Tuesday.