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Flight of Friendship takes off

Oregonians head to New Orleans this weekend

Portland Mayor Tom Potter, Gov. Ted Kulongoski and a number of other Oregonians were among the first participants in Portland's Flight of Friendship to New Orleans to fly to the Louisiana city Saturday morning.

The trip, which will involve more than 100 Oregonians flying to New Orleans Saturday and Sunday, was organized by Portland travel agency owner Sho Dozono and his wife, Loen, of Azumano Travel. The Dozonos began organizing the trip after they visited New Orleans last year and were surprised at the slow recovery from Hurricane Katrina, which hit the city and Gulf Coast in August 2005.

'We were astounded at the lack of progress in the recovery effort,' Dozono said several weeks ago.

The Oregonians' time in New Orleans will focus on learning about and helping with the work of Portland-based Mercy Corps, an international aid organization that has had workers helping the region recover for the past 16 months.

All Flight of Friendship participants are paying for their airfare to New Orleans and their accommodations while staying there and also were encouraged to make a $200 donation each to Mercy Corps. The trip participants will be spending part of their four or five days in New Orleans doing volunteer work with some of Mercy Corps' recovery projects.

Participants will be helping with the organization's cleaning and outreach in New Orleans' hard-hit Broadmoor neighborhood and with the 'deconstruction' of a damaged home - which will allow many parts of the home to be re-used.

A welcome reception for the Oregonians was scheduled for Sunday night, with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and other city representatives expected to attend.

Most Flight of Friendship participants are expected to leave New Orleans Wednesday.