First of all: safe travels to everyone in the first group tomorrow! I hope everyone’s experiences leave them with something to talk about (oh my, I was just listening to a cover of that — strange!).

Well, I am definitely excited for this trip, as I’m sure everyone else is. Fundraising has only built that further. After finishing a pretty packed exam schedule and recovering from a wisdom teeth operation, my timing options were pretty limited. So I headed out to Toronto last Saturday with a few friends to sell some Mardi Gras necklaces and masks, paint faces, play music, and hand out info sheets. Very few things actually turned out as planned though; and I think it was for the better. After speaking to passersby, most of the ones — who stopped, at least — just wanted to donate with nothing in return (hmmm, what to do with 150 necklaces?). I was also surprised by how many people knew what was going on in New Orleans, and could tell me more than I could tell them. One man even described what a FEMA camp is like, and the problems with people being unable to collect their welfare checks because their mailboxes have no locks. I remember approaching a few people to say “would you like to read about what’s going on in New Orleans?”, only to hear “I know what’s going on in New Orleans. I have family there.” The expressions on their faces, well, I can’t really describe. It just showed me how far-reaching the devastation still is, and how much it has hurt people. Even though we raised a super modest $55 all day, I think spreading the word, and learning more myself, made the time we put in more than worth it. Plus, seeing my best friend of 17 years bust out her accordion with my acoustic-playing brother on Toronto’s evening streets, was absolutely priceless.

Even still, Onur and I are organizing a marshmallow kegger for next Friday night (i.e. there will be a fire to roast marshmallows)! Hopefully all of the funds put together can put a bit of a dent in the cost of next year’s trip? Plus, I can hand out all of those necklaces before they collect dust in my room!

Wow, this is only the preparation! I think I’ll be really surprised by what and how much I learn on the trip, because the whole issue is so complex. I’m really looking forward to meeting new people, and getting my hands in there to rebuild. Hopefully this will get me ready for some Habitat for Humanity volunteer work when I get back!

Oh yes, last thought: my packing goal is to fit everything into one backpack. We’ll see how that goes!

Lori Dagenais