McNeese State University sociology senior Roishetta Sibley is changing lives in Southwest Louisiana through a mutual aid initiative called the Vessel Project.
The Vessel Project came to life during the record-breaking cold temperatures in the southern region of the country experienced in late February.
“During Hurricane Laura, I was helped by a fellow mutual aid organization called Forever Calcasieu,” explains Sibley. “During the ice storm, I saw so many members of our community in the same situation I was and I knew I had to help in some way.”
Sibley saw several social media posts each day from citizens looking for resources and shelter prior to the winter storm. Knowing the demand was so high, she began contacting the social media users to ask how she could help.
“So many people in Southwest Louisiana are still struggling to repair their homes or are without homes since hurricanes Laura and Delta, so a lot of the online requests were for adequate shelter,” says Sibley. “I don’t have the space in my own home for so many people, so I started booking affordable hotel rooms.”
Sibley began paying out-of-pocket for as many rooms as she could and then she began asking for help on her personal social media accounts. Her friends and family answered her call for help which gave Sibley the means to continue. Sibley’s efforts also caught the attention of Dominique Darbonne, lead singer for the acclaimed local band, the Flamethrowers.
“Dominique began sharing my efforts with her friends and family and she even reached out to me directly on how she could help,” says Sibley. “That’s where our friendship started and we have been partners ever since.”
Together the pair helped citizens around Lake Charles connect with United Way’s 211 help line, transported many families to shelter from the storm and provided hotel rooms for over 200 families across Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana.
“We were overwhelmed by the support our community gave us so we in turn could support others,” Sibley says. “We also received aid from several churches that allowed us to provide food for many of the families we had in hotels. Plus, because of this overwhelming response, we were also able to help over 30 families in Mississippi.”
Sibley and Darbonne are in the process of applying for 501c3 status to continue their work. For more information about the Vessel Project, email email@example.com or go on Facebook.