Over?…Really? Monday, May 31 2010 

Ok so the first week went by really slow and I was like “ok, week two, now this is going to take forever”. Biola contextualized it best when she kept harping on the subject Friday, “I swear to god it was like yesterday was Monday”, she kept muttering. She was spot on. I cannot believe it’s over; I’m here in Houston, going over the trip in my mind. I mean there were some great moments, Bourbon Street was pretty crazy at times, but it got cheesy after a while, it was a bit too touristy. Frenchman and the French Quarter were epic. I loved the Jazz places we visited. I’m trying to pick a favourite moment, but I can’t. I loved how cheap everything was, but I still think drive-through daiquiris as great as they are, are still ridiculous. I appreciate all the connections we’ve made and what we have done, but there is so much more work to be done here. It’s ridiculous that people do not still have homes. I lucked out again and ended up working at another house for almost the entire week. I enjoyed talking to the couple (Stacey and Michael); it was great to see a house that was almost finished; they had the gas turned on the day before our last day. They were very hospitable, they cooked barbeque for us the first day we came by and told us we could swim in their pool whenever we wanted. Their experience with Katrina was horrible – they almost lost their kids in the flood and had to go all over America as internally displaced persons trying to survive. Yet, they were very optimistic they saw Katrina as something that was ambivalent and their perspective on the hurricane was different from some and maybe most; they saw it as a blessing, because they now own a house (it was given to them after Katrina by Mike’s dad who didn’t want to work on it because it was an almost impossible project and after five years now it’s still not complete, almost, but not yet).

Touching back on this last week again, it did go by very fast. I really liked the last dinner, and No the markers weren’t permanent so everything on my skin did wash off. Oh and I love that Natalia adopted Nola, I think she (ok he) is just gorgeous. I ended up spending like an hour in Gate C just to play with Nola – so long that I almost missed my flight.

Best,

Onur

First Week Monday, May 31 2010 

First week of New Orleans was epic. The people here are so nice, and this is something that keeps coming up on every blog, from this trip and from the last one. The southern hospitality here is spectacular; people are so much friendlier than in Toronto. Camp Hope is also amazing, it’s very safe, I mean I leave my laptop downstairs for hours unattended and I come back and it was still there. Everybody here came to volunteer, mostly from schools, or other organizations, NGOs and governmental organizations like Americorps. So it was nice to have a group of people living in one place, all committed to helping others, but who are also very diverse and from all over North America. I have already spent plenty of time clearing up misconceptions about Canada with Americans, i.e. Yes, we have air-conditioning in Toronto and we do need it in the summer and No, we do not speak like Terrance and Phillip from South Park.

Luckily my group got to stay with the same house for the first week and we made some great connections with the homeowner, his family and neighbours. When we first got in it kind of looked like a skeleton, I mean it was not a house – the insulation was in and some of the drywall was up, but after we split up into smaller groups and started to put up the drywall, you could see the inside getting dimmer. All of the sudden you had rooms and the next day you had closets and a bathroom and then Darren came by (the homeowner) and told us his story about how he survived through Katrina. He also gave us the best tip on how to survive any hurricane, which was “when they tell you to leave, you leave!” It was great that he could still keep his sense of humour after five years, while waiting on a house across the street, living at his mom’s place. Oh and his mom, Georgia, she is amazing, she is very welcoming, I came over on lunch breaks to talk to her every now and then. People here are also very open about sharing their experiences about Katrina, if it was me; I would clam up to avoid flash floods of bad memories, but I’m glad that they chose to share. The Katrina tour and just walking around the neighbourhood was kind of shocking because you see these empty lots of land where houses used to be and wonder what happened to that family and where they are now. Overall the entire week was amazing, I especially liked the part where I was talking to Darren and he told me what was going to be in every room; which one was his daughter’s room, which one was his and his wife’s and how he wanted the rooms to look when they were finished. This house will re-unite his family as they are all still scattered over America. Might be trite or moot or both to say this, but we weren’t just putting together a house there, we were putting together a family. I did not want to leave that project. I do not like it that we are here for only two weeks because what I have been hearing is that you need to stay 11 weeks to see a house through. I’m going to look into coming back next year, but earlier than May, because I could not stand the heat here.

Best,

Onur

So long New Orleans Monday, May 31 2010 

Our two weeks in New Orleans have come and gone like that.  Before we arrived, I really had no idea what to expect of this city.  Would our rebuilding efforts be needed nearly five years after Katrina?  Is rebuilding a city that sits largely below sea level sensible in the face or climate change and rising sea levels?  After two weeks I still don’t really have answers to these questions, and if anything I found myself with even more questions then before.

One thing is sure; New Orleans is an amazing city.  The food, the nightlife, the music, the culture are all amazing and unique, and the people are as friendly as any you will ever meet.  Another thing that is sure is that our rebuilding efforts were by no means in vain.  The amount of devastation still remaining from Katrina five years on is truly shocking.  Throughout the city and St. Bernard Parish houses, stores, malls, schools and hospitals still lie abandon, and if you didn’t know better you would think Katrina was a recent disaster. 

All in all this trip was truly fantastic.  I want to thank Tanya and Pascal for organizing this amazing experience for us, and for putting up with us in our various stages of indecisiveness and drunkenness.  I also want to thank want everyone in the group for being so wonderful and making the trip as much fun as it was.

Cheers,

Chris

Lights, Camera, Action, Take 2!!! Sunday, May 30 2010 

It is day fifteen and it is time to go. I am going to miss this trip and the great experience it had provided for me. I had the chance do to things I have wanted to do my whole life that I have gotten to do in New Orleans, such as hold a alligator and experience going on an airplane. Its sad to go but I miss my friends and family. As I recount the most memorable moments of this trip, here what comes to mind:

–         A warm and fun filled day in Biloxi, Mississippi. I finally got to see a dolphins plus go swimming in the Gulf of Mexico.

–    The Swomp Tour had to be one of my highlights

–         Meeting Tanya Harris technically for the second time, (hence the argument in the dinner was the first time I met her).As a guest speaker she was highly articulate and extremely funny

–         Favorite group outing had to be the Cheesecake Bistro- the waitress rapped for the group so that made my day.

–         Myself having loads of fun on the various sites with the Americopes and John, the construction manager

I can’t believe this trip has come to an end. As I write this final blog, I am thinking about those who we have touched with our presence and volunteer work. I didn’t\ not think this trip would leave a lasting sensenation when it was time to go home, but it as. It was hard to adjust on the first day. I didn’t know what I got myself into or how to pace myself with labor, the heat or staying hydrated. But when it’s all said in done, if I had to do this again and stay at Camp Hope, I would do it all over again. New Orleans is a great city that deserves a fighting chance to recover from Hurricane Katrina.  I am extremely thankful for the volunteer dinner. It as extremely nice to see the people of New Orleans give thanks to all the volunteers who came to their city to help in the rebuilding efforts. I was expecting a thank you, not a full course dinner. Lastly, I want to say thank you. To everyone from Tanya and Pascal, to Mark and his kitchen staff, St. Benarnds project, the

AmeriCorps and to all who made this trip to New Orleans a huge success.

Challenge yourself to be the best you can be. I know I have. Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” So if the time ever comes, take this opportunity to come to New Orleans, grab it and embrace it.

Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
Martin Luther King

After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.
Nelson Mandela

Love always,

“Biola”

So long Nawlins… Sunday, May 30 2010 

Really…two weeks have flown by already?  I can’t believe the time has gone by so quickly.  I think back to when my flight landed two weeks ago in the pouring rain.  I remember touring the city and being shocked at what I saw, houses still boarded up, spray paint remaining on some of the houses, roofs patched up where people tried to escape, now it saddens me because I have almost become used to seeing those things.  A sort of de-sensitized feeling.  Again I look back and remember two weeks full of expereinces that will last me a lifetime: Camp Hope, Touring Bourbon Street, The French Quarter, building houses, Mississippi and Ship Island the Swamp Tour too many things to name but all will remain with me in my heart for years to come.  I can’t say enough about the wonderful students of Ryerson University, Pascal and Tanya.  But, to the people of St Bernard and New Orleans, YOU all have a resilience that has inspired me to push forward in my life. 

”  A good character is the best tombstone.  Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered.  Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.  ~Charles H. Spurgeon

Take care ya’ll

-Michelle

Tutay, Alyssa – Trip Blog Post #2 Sunday, May 30 2010 

Hello Interweb! It is Alyssa again ending on a happy note from New Orleans. I never thought I would meet so many great spirits here on the trip. Our Americorps leaders have been so nice to all of us, and very patient. Pascal and Tanya and the rest of the crew are all closely-knit, and I recall the few CINT 912 2009 students at the 2010 orientation saying that they’ve become a family throughout and after their New Orleans experience. I feel somewhat the same, in that seeing one of us will make me wonder where the rest of us are at.

Prior to the trip, I was beginning to feel like there were guaranteed mixed emotions regarding rebuilding in New Orleans amongst the local residents. However, every resident I’ve met has been beyond grateful to see our arms and legs at work, always smiling and repeatedly thanking us.

Lately I’ve been pursuing my personal journey in spiritual ‘awakening’ and this trip has really taught me a lot in many different ways. The kind of love that brings us all together here in New Orleans is overwhelming; we are all here in St. Bernard Parish to help and teach each other. It reminds me of what Tanya Harris said: “Human spirit touches human spirit.” Nothing materialistic can come between that connection. How fascinating! The food, the people, the music… I loved my stay here.

Jenni… you are awesome-sauce. Lori… love ya! Pascal… lean on me, whenever, you’re awesome! Tanya… all the best in NOLA and I hope to see you soon! Michelle… all love for you my dear! Natallica… rock solid, hope your summer rocks! Chris… the dancing machine, see you on Friday with or without you, lol! Chivon… keep it real, you’re awesome! Alison… don’t ever change, rockstar! Shantae… you’re a real sweetheart, hope you have a great time in Florida! Nichola… glad you’ve been protective during this trip, stay classy! Biola… reppin’ the hood all day every day, ha! Lesley… aww Lesley you’re awesome, see you on Friday at Chris’ with or without him! Candice… community gardening is a must! Francesca… you’re sooo witty and awesome, love ya! Julea… it was great working with you, fellow grapemunk! Onur… we have our differences but hopefully they can be overcome someday. Alexandra… so full of life and it’s seriously contagious haha! Mara… ‘Pilipino ka?’ lol all the best darlin’.  Nicole… your warm-heartedness shines through and through, and I love ya!

Last but not least, myself… woohoo I got one hour to pack! Peace out everybody, and I’ll see “all y’all” soon (:

Saturday, May 29 2010 

Today was our last day in New Orleans.  It has been an amazing adventure and experience.  Thank you to everyone for making this trip and journey what it has been.  The city was beautiful, the people were great, the whole thing has been incredible.  The opportunity to help rebuild the city has been wonderful and I will never forget it.  Everything from the food to the speakers we went to has been great and has given me a better understanding of the NOLA culture.  I am so happy I came on this trip and so happy I was a part of helping people regain some stability in their lives.  I recommend this for everyone to try at least once.

Thanks,

Lesley 🙂

Final Day….Unbelievable! Saturday, May 29 2010 

Hello Everyone,

It’s so hard to believe that today is my final day in New Orleans, LA.  I’ve mentioned this before and I’ll mention again: after months upon months of waiting, it was a shock when the time finally arrived to head south to the Big Easy.  Now, this experience, that I had waited so long for, is now almost over.  Only 15 hours and 15 minutes left for me, before I will be flying away from NOLA.  It’s bittersweet.  I”m so sad to be leaving, but at the same time, I am looking forward to getting back home to Canada.  Even though I will not be here in person, NOLA certainly has captured a little piece of my heart.

This was truly an experience of a lifetime.  I never in a million years would have guessed that I would have the opportunity to help rebuild the Hurricane Katrina destruction.  Never.  But somehow, as luck would have it, I would be introduced to this opportunity and take advantage of it, living this experience to the fullest of my ability.  I would not change a single thing about this trip.  It was amazing, beginning to end.

I’d like to take this time to thank my instructors, Tanya Gulliver and Pascal Murphy, for making this dream possible.  Words can’t express how appreciative I am that you two made this all possible.  THANK YOU!!  THANK YOU!!  THANK YOU!!

– Alison

All volunteers are angels on this earth Saturday, May 29 2010 

Last day before I head back to Toronto and it saddens me to leave such a family oriented, caring, very friendly and cultural city of New Orleans.  I have learned so much from this two-week experience physically, spiritually and emotionally.  Physically I’ve learned many rebuilding skills that I hope to use someday to assist building my home and assist others who may need help with their home.  Spiritually I’ve gained more faith and hope in humanity for everyone to care and take care of each other as a family.  Emotionally I’ve felt great appreciation from everyone in New Orleans from homeowners, AmeriCorps, St. Bernard Project, volunteer organizations, council chair and the people in the communities.  As a result I feel proud of myself to have done such a good deed in helping those who are in need by rebuilding their homes and their lives back because I know someday if I am in need I know there are amazing, helpful and caring people out there that will help me in any way possible.  Coming to New Orleans I did not have any expectations at all and did not know many people.  Although now that I am leaving for Toronto I have seen the most beautiful wildlife, heard amazing jazz music, tasted the best southern food, met very friendly locals and people from other states and countries, rebuilt a home from scratch, heard heart-felt stories in regards to their experience to hurricane Katrina, seen, heard and felt the community’s optimism, appreciation and love towards all volunteers and last but not least created memorable and great friendships with amazing people.  Hearing last year’s group experience with their group members I agree that great friendships can be made in little time no matter what your differences are for that in New Orleans everyone is open to becoming one as a family.  After hearing Paul Perez during the slide show presentation at the volunteer dinner I too believe that there are angels on this earth for they are the people who help and care for those in need.  I can now say that I have worked, talked, laughed, hugged, ate, sang and danced with angels.  Thank you to everyone in my group, Tanya and Pascal for being such great angels on this earth.  Lastly, open your hearts and come to New Orleans and help in rebuilding people’s lives by starting with their home because until now 5 years after the hurricane the city has not yet fully recovered and they need all the help they can get. 

Mara     

home time already?! Saturday, May 29 2010 

Today is the last day of the trip! i cannot believe how much ive learned, seen and done. it was just 2 weeks ago when i arrived at Camp Hope not knowing anyone (except for my travel buddy Julea) and knowing what to expect for the next little while. although i was instantly feeling home sick my modivation was reminding myself why im here; to rebuild lives and homes.
i learned how to drywall, siding, flooring, clean an abandoned home, and so much more. we’ve met some great speakers and home owners who ive learned so much from.
now that the trip is over, i can say i had a great experience and believe many people should come down to the Big Easy for not only tourism reasons but to help as well. theres still so much that needs to be done, even 5 years after the storm.

francesca

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