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.