The time has gone by so quickly, and I’m shacking my head in disbelief to the fact that I’m leaving tomorrow morning. So much has happened in two weeks, and I am literally exhausted; getting up for an 8am departure has just gotten harder and harder, but I wouldn’t have wanted to slow down for a second. Here’s a little recap of what I’ve been up to since I’ve been here:
Friday April 30th: Arrival. It was great to see Pascal pull up in the big white 12 seater van to pick us all up from the airport. Those of us who were there stopped at ihop for the most amazing breakfast I’ve ever had, for probably the cheapest price I’ve ever paid. We settled at Camp Hope, our home for the next 2 weeks, then headed downtown to explore. From the first day, I could see the divide between the beautiful touristic French Quarter, and the surrounding areas where houses were either run-down, boarded up, or nonexistent aside from the foundation. I was intent on getting started with rebuilding – there is still so much to be done!
Saturday May 1st: We had a post-Katrina tour around New Orleans. We drove around while hearing from our tour guide, Rose, about the situation during and after the hurricane. It was all very interesting. She mentioned that Katrina was not a race based phenomena, which, obviously, a natural disaster can’t discriminate like that, but I would entirely have to disagree with her on that one. That night, we went to Bourbon St. New Orleans sure knows how to party.
Sunday, May 2nd. Jazz fest! What an amazing day, all I can say is that I had the best time, and and so glad I had the opportunity to go to the New Orleans Jazz Festival!
Monday, May 3rd: Orientation at the St. Bernard Project headquarters, then off to an abandoned elementary school, St. Mary of the Angel’s School, to do some demolition. The school is going to be turned into a community centre to help revitalize the community!
Tuesday, May 4th: More demo. It was a great day at the school. For dinner, we went to Jay Gumbo’s for some great New Orleans style cookin’. I love the sea food down here! Later, we went to Dillard University to have a talk at the Centre for Deep South Environmental Justice. We met Dr. Beverly Wright, author of Race, Place, and Environmental Justice After Hurricane Katrina. I definitely plan on reading that book, and you should too! She is just an intelligent, well spoken woman!
Wednesday, May 5th: We were split into two different groups to do insulation. I was placed at a house belonging to a woman named Vita (last name?). What a tough job. Felt good to help out, though! Vita sounds like a very caring, compassionate woman; she takes care of a lot of people in her family, taking care of their children. Wish I could have met her! Later that day, we all went to Trouser House, an art gallery/ community garden, founded by Emily Morrison. I thought she was so inspiring. I really admired her values and her hopes to bring an opportunity for those of the community to express themselves artistically and to have a source of healthy food choices that is very much lacking. That night we also went to a Cinco de Mayo block party. I had a lot of fun hanging out on the street and listening to some awesome live music.
Thursday, May 6th: St. Bernard Project was full, so we had an opportunity to volunteer elsewhere. I went to the New Orleans Mission homeless shelter. It was interesting seeing what a homeless shelter is like, I’ve never been to one, or volunteered at one before. I was glad to help, there were not a lot of people to get the simple tasks, like folding clothes and preparing the food, done.
Friday, May 7th: I had the best day volunteering at an animal shelter! Dogs, puppies, kitties, all day long! And some poop cleaning, too, but well worth it to be surrounded by happy-go-lucky animals all day. If you want to get a pet, adopt one from an animal shelter, they are so precious, and just waiting for a home!
Saturday, May 8th: A lot of people went to Alabama to see the Civil Rights Museum, but myself and three others decided to forgo the 8 hour drive (both ways), and went downtown and explored the French Market. I bought some awesome things! Souvenirs, and presents. I was a definite tourist that day. I finally ate steamed crawfish (not as big of a fan as I thought I would be) and beignets at the famous Cafe du Monde (they were deliiicious). We went out to party it up on Bourbon St. again. I love that street.
Sunday, May 9th: We went on a swamp tour! Super fast airboats getting air off of mud banks, and holding baby alligators is sooo my thing. I had a great time.
Monday, May 10th: We were separated into three groups to go work on separate homes. I ended up at the Haver house – see my previous post to find out what happened. I was frustrated to be working on a home that seemed to be owned by a well-off family.
I will stop going day-by-day here! I have been at the Haver house for the rest of the week, and it felt really good to see a house almost done. Despite papa Haver not being the most accommodating homeowner, it’s nice to think that a family that had lost almost everything will have a home to go to very soon. This last week has gone by sooo fast! I’ve had a great time, and met a lot of great people. I will remember this experience for the rest of my life, and it has motivated me to help and volunteer so much more when I get home to Toronto.