No, I wasn't on vacation

Some of GD's current clients may notice I go out of town about every other month. Almost without fail, someone greets my return with a statement like "hope you had a good vacation." The well-wishing is appreciated, but after a while I started wondering if everyone thinks I go on vacation every few weeks.

This month I traveled to San Diego and Tijuana as a photographer for Project Mercy. The task: document the eventful week of 160 people.

Pictures and words fail to describe the immensity of the issue we hoped to put a dent in.

Massive natural disasters happen all around the world. Often, such catastrophes go unnoticed by many of us in the US. Hurricane Katrina, unfortunately, is not the first example of a hurricane completely devastating a region. I'm no expert, but my guess is that it happens annually. It just doesn't always happen in this country.

Imagine a storm nearly as powerful as Katrina hitting a region without the technology to properly gauge the imposing impact. Lack of building codes or enforcement, antiquated communication methods to warn of the impeding doom, a comparatively minor disaster management infrastructure, or the money to aid and rebuild are all additional obstacles other countries face with when hit by such a storm.

So how has Mexico dealt with such circumstances? Put the people on buses, haul them to an uninhabited region farther from the coast, and drop them off.

According to Project Mercy, a non-profit group making a difference in the region, "the inadequate housing of the neighborhoods in which the corporation is working leads to health hazards year round. Rats, mice, tarantulas, and scorpions invade shacks built directly on top of the dirt. Leaking roofs and patched walls can't keep the dusty winds of summer and the icy winds and rain of winter from entering the living quarters. Make-shift lean-tos collapse in high winds. Respiratory and bronchial ailments abound every winter; babies freeze to death and fire claims lives every year as a result of poor heating attempts in flimsy shacks. Many residents do not have a latrine and empty human waste on the land."

Project Mercy, founded in 1991 by Paula Claussen, builds simple, sturdy homes for the poorest families in the region.