Sandrine Le Galliard was in a teachers’ in-service at her school in France when she learned through Facebook posts of the devastation Hurricane Laura brought to Southwest Louisiana.

Le Galliard is an English teacher at Notre Dame Middle School, which is located in the South of France near Marseilles by the Mediterranean Sea. “When I heard about it on the news I couldn’t help but share this event with my co-workers,” she wrote in an email. “I showed them pictures of Calcasieu Parish devastated.”

Le Galliard has memories of a pre-Laura Calcasieu Parish, and the photos she saw were in severe contrast to those. She was a French Associate teacher, part of the Codofil programme, in Calcasieu from 2014 to 2017. She taught French as a second language at Maplewood Elementary and Cypress Cove Elementary in Sulphur, Westwood Elementary in Westlake and at Lebleu Settlement Elementary north of Iowa. Le Galliard bridged the distance between students in France and those in her Louisiana classrooms via Skype meetings. Her Louisiana students participated in a project to show their support to their counterparts following a 2015 terrorist attack in France. They held gumbo and Christmas parties, as well as honored Veterans Day via the Internet.

Le Galliard said she was very moved by the disaster and told her fellow teachers that she wanted to do something with the students to be supportive. “Immediately my co-workers volunteered and we thought about a school interdisciplinary project,” she said. “It is also a great opportunity to make students aware of the French heritage in Louisiana with the Cajun community.”

Le Galliard said after seeing footage of the storm, her students were shocked by the strength of the hurricane and the devastation it created. “In France we can have rain and winds storms especially in the South,” said Le Galliard. “The wind called ‘Mistral’ has the reputation to make people crazy after a few days!”

Beyond the impact of the storm on the landscape of Louisiana, Le Galliard said one of her seventh grade students, Chloé, asked about the human toll. “I answered her question and I could see tears in her eyes,” she said. The number of deaths in Louisiana attributed to Hurricane Laura is 10.

“I am very concerned and touched by this event, my students and my co-workers are now too,” said Le Galliard. I would like Louisiana and Calcasieu Parish, which hosted me for three wonderful years, to know about it.

“Part of my heart is still there,” she continued. “I want the people of Louisiana to know that some French think about them hard, that we believe in the strong community spirit there and that our French connection with the Pelican State is still alive! We support you! Louisiana, you rock! “Lache pas la patate!”

Students Showing Support for Louisiana

Around 300 of Le Galliard’s English students in grades 6-9 will participate in projects, fundraisers and lessons focusing on Louisiana to show support for the victims of Hurricane Laura.

Le Galliard said that in less than 30 minutes after telling her coworkers of the storm, plans were hatched for the following activities:

• A song will be written in Cajun French, English, Italian and Spanish. The students will then create a flash mob to sing and dance to their creation.

• Students will watch the Princess and the Frog and learn the Louisiana State song ‘You are my Sunshine.’ 

• T-shirts will be designed, a walk will be organized and handcrafts will be made by students to raise money.

• A prayer group will pray for Louisiana throughout the year.

• There will be Skype sessions so that students can interview some Calcasieu residents about the aftermath of Hurricane Laura.

• Students will watch the documentary “Hurricane Laura — A Storm Chasing Documentary,” by Tornado Trackers released on YouTube and they will study this particular event with the geography and science teachers.

• Students will also study one of Cajun musician Zachary Richard’s songs, learn how to play kickball, (which is unknown in France) and learn some of the history of Louisiana. “We have already planned a videoconference with (Louisiana historian) Joseph Dunn,” said Le Galliard.