Just a brief NOLA update for you, our supporters, friends and family (and anyone else who has wandered by).
Friday was spent travelling. One student missed a plane because of bus hang-ups but managed to get another flight, and even connect with his original second flight (all flights had at least one stopover). Some of us had problems at customs because the guards thought we were taking jobs away from Americans by volunteering. We managed to convince them of the importance of our work, and the fact that there is so much that the local agencies don’t have enough money to employ all the workers for the work that needs to be done.
Friday night many students went to Bourbon Street. A night of frivolity for sure, repeated by many trying it out again on Saturday. Several students went to Jazz Fest on Saturday and really enjoyed themselves. Others looked around the city (I did two driving tours of the 9th ward for students) and a group of us went on a swamp tour. Dinner in the French Quarter and Bourbon Street for most on Saturday evening.
Sunday we arranged for a private tour with Grayline. They showed us the most devastated areas of the city. It was shocking and an eye-opener for most students, and yet at the same time very inspiring. New Orleans has reached the “Tipping Point” and there is suddenly a lot of building and renovating happening.
Sunday afternoon we travelled out to St. Bernard Project to the Volunteer House we are staying at while working in the Parish. If you click the link you’ll see a picture of the house. There is a picture on the wall that shows the flooding in this area; only the roof of the house is showing as a boat passes by it. The beige sided area used to be a carport and they renovated it to add extra sleeping space and a laundry room.
On Monday we had orientation at the St.Bernard Project. One thing to note, which comes up again and again in St. Bernard, including on our tour and at our orientation, is that Canadians were the first rescuers, and for a few days the only professional rescuers, in the parish. They arrived (from Vancouver) on day 4. Assistance from the United States arrived on Day 7. People in St. Bernard are happy that we’re here to volunteer and estatic when they learn we are from Canada.
The class divided into 3 groups. Two groups of 4 went to houses that are further along in the process, while a group of 16 went to a house that was being worked on (in the construction phase) for the first time. We insulated an entire house in a day. It was expected that it would take two days but the students (and I) worked as a very effective and efficient team. Except for inhaled and scratchy fibreglass fibers all was great. The homeowner at this latter location made a gigantic lunch to feed everybody.
We’ve been having team meetings every day, and there is such positive energy. Everyone is excited to be working, especially the ability to make change and to see it happen. Almost everyone is out working today, one student is sick and sleeping. (I’m expecting some colds and minor flus — most students finished exams/essays the day before they left and were exhausted).
One thing that students have commented on is the level of team work that they are seeing – not just while on the worksite but also in the house. I’m keeping the fridges and cupboards stocked but students are taking turns with cooking, prep work, cleaning etc. Today someone even made French Toast for folks. Laundry was a communal effort as is the system of showering (we have two small bathrooms for 24 people). We’ve purchased a DVD player for the house (and will leave it as a thank you gift). Many hung out together last night watching Slum Dog Millionaire. Others watched baseball, played cards, did their email or just hung around chatting with others.
More to come later