What does caring for your neighbor look like when disaster strikes? For the members of the Cajun Navy, it doesn’t mean standing by and waiting for the government to help. It means rolling up your sleeves and using your talents to pitch in.

For the past several hurricanes, these volunteers have organized themselves into rescue crews, using personal boats and trucks to supplement professional aid workers’ emergency response.

The Cajun Navy is more than just Cajuns. Mariners and volunteers from all over the South have been a part of the effort. As Shawn Boudreaux, president of the Cajun Navy Relief, explains:

I think the real strength of what we’re trying to accomplish is to utilize local assets. People who live local to the disaster are able to help their neighbors and that’s the philosophy. That’s what we want to embrace. … That’s what it’s about. To help your neighbors.

What does a day of volunteering with the Cajun Navy look like? The New York Times reports:

The loosely organized assembly of weekend fishermen, shift workers, college students and others has come to the rescue before, in storms like Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Harvey last year. This time, the volunteers spread out across Florence’s path.

On Saturday night, a call came about a family in need of help in Wilmington.

A Cajun Navy crew headed out and they led the family through waist-high water. Mr. Harrison carried Dylan Roberts, 2, to a waiting boat.

As water swelled in a neighborhood nearby, Mr. Harrison, who owns a credit card processing business, and Brett Neely, an emergency medical technician, waded through a flooded street, calling out into the night to see if anyone needed help. …

By dawn, the volunteers had helped carry more than 155 people out of their homes in this area, delivering many to shelters, in a single night.

Want to see the Cajun Navy in action? Check out this amazing slideshow of photos from the New York Times.

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