Those who were NOLA-bound… Saturday, Apr 30 2011 

…have arrived safe and sound. Group 1 is here and all accounted for.  Border crossings were relatively smooth from what I have heard with one mistaken identity as mother and child (oops) and one as an engaged couple. In the scheme  of it all…not too bad.

Tonight, they are hitting the Quarter and Bourbon Street….tomorrow, Jazz Fest…

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Down By The Water Thursday, Apr 28 2011 

I can officially say “Summer”  2011 has begun, with the completion of exams – New Orleans is seeming closer and more of a reality, more than ever before. I cannot express how excited/nervous/excited/nervous I am, especially not through this blogosphere ( something I admit, I’m still getting used to). For the past couple of nights (to my stomachs dismay), I have been dreaming in full detail of caffe latte’s and hot beignets, regardless of the heat, I will be doing my best to consume an inordinate  amount of both of these hot ticket items within the next two weeks. As we are on the topic of caffeine, there is one thing that NOLA crew 1 should know, I’m fully whole heartedly addicted to tea, it’s an issue – its 11:00, and I’ve already had 5 cups of tea..(please note: I woke up at 9:oo), not sure how my body will react, to full days of manual work, “sans” tea – however, maybe I can use the next few weeks as a make shift detoxification ha. Before last night, I was totally confident about flying to Louisiana, a month ago I flew to Copenhagen solo, no issues, but everyone has been sharing horror stories about American customs…officially scared.

Side note, ..a couple months of ago, I missed The Decemberists (Favourite Band of All Time!) show at Sound Academy, ruined the following few weeks after…Convenientley, they are playing this Sunday at the Jazz Fest, safe to say I’m getting tickets.

I’ve attached a video of a song on their latest album – I’m feeling NOLA vibes just listening to it.

See you all VERY soon, xo.

Becki

One year ago… Thursday, Apr 28 2011 

A year ago today I woke up in Birmingham, Alabama and went to sleep in New Orleans; I had officially moved.

Today, several tornadoes have ripped through Alabama.   Several group two NOLA students (those arriving on May 14th) were planning to go on a Civil Rights field trip to Alabama. Some of the areas hit today were amongst those I planned for us to visit, or at least pass through.

I was going to post today about my experiences over the past year, but instead, my mind is caught up with the images and news coming out across the south. This has been a bad year for storms; a bad year for tornadoes. We have had several hit the Greater New Orleans area, including in St. Bernard Parish where I live.

A few weeks ago, this was my phone weather alert system going crazy:

The more I study disasters, the more news like this hits me hard. It is part of my PTSD for sure; it’s part of knowing more about the impact. And sometimes it is personal. My friends Jess and Fred are from Alabama. Their hometowns have been hard tonight. Jess has heard from all her family; Fred hasn’t. I was just talking with him today because he is arranging a sound system for the van I will be using for tours with the students. Statistically speaking, it is likely that Fred’s family is fine. But, dozens of people have been killed and thousands more affected. Regardless, my thoughts are with Jess and Fred tonight, and with all those who are waiting to hear from those whom they love.

I have never lost someone close to a disaster, but the suddenness with which they occur reminds me of the loss of my brother Tyler. That unpredictability, that instant loss; the way life changes within minutes.

I’m really just feeling quite sad tonight.

TMG

Judy is geared for New Orleans Monday, Apr 25 2011 

Well hello!

As I get ready to write my last exam today, I am getting super excited for New Orleans. Not like I wasn’t before or anything, it just seems so much closer after exams are over!!

Our lead up to this trip has been great, everyone worked so hard on getting fundraising ideas going and putting them into action. I am so happy I got to work with quite a few of the ladies in my group with our fundraising, it made me think of how great we will work together when we get down to New Orleans.

Some of the great fundraising events we put together were, grilled cheese sales, bake sales and just asking for/pestering people in our classes to raise some money.

I was lucky enough that a bunch of my family donated, from small or large amounts as well as some of their employers!! I have been so overwhelmed with the amount of generosity and kindness people have displayed throughout this fundraising process.

But now that fundraising is over, I am looking forward to all the great work we will do once we get to New Orleans as well as all the fun activities we have planned! I am soooo excited for the swamp tour, and the food…mmmm the foood!!! I have looked up quite a few places that I would like to check out. As you can tell, I love great food and I have a feeling New Orleans will not disappoint.

Well im off to my exam! Can’t wait to chat more once we get to NOLA!

❤ Judy

Away we go… Sunday, Apr 24 2011 

Hey everyone, well its Sunday night and I can’t believe that by this time next week I’ll be in New Orleans. I can’t wait to finish up the school year with my last exam tomorrow and then I have the rest of the week to get organized for the trip. I already started packing a few weeks ago because I’m so pumped to go on this trip but I’m a nerd like that, I always do this before I go away. I feel its necessary to pack at least a month ahead so that you are fully prepared and don’t forget anything. I’m also an over packer but I am going to try my hardest this trip not to be!

Even though I’m excited I’m also feeling a bit anxious and stressed about going away. I am leaving behind my foster kids and I hope everything runs smoothly while I am away from home. I have been talking about this trip with them for months now. They have been asking me lots of questions about the hurricane and what caused all these things to happen. I try to answer the questions the best I can from what I have learned from class and from my readings. It also helps them understand why I am leaving them for two weeks. I told them that when I come back I will give them a presentation complete with slide show so they can hear my stories, see what New Orleans is like and the things I did while I was away from them, which I think they will enjoy.

I feel very lucky that I am able to have this experience with all of you and I look forward to getting to know you all in a week.

See you all soon,

Kristin

P.S. I just want to also say thank you to my family and friends that donated, your generosity was outstanding!

Shauna’s pre-trip post Sunday, Apr 24 2011 

Hello everyone!

I can’t believe in a week we will be off on an adventure we will never forget!

I still remember the first day hearing about this volunteer trip in my environmental disaster class, and taking the information home, sharing it with my family and friends. Making the decision to apply and waiting to get accepted into the program.  Attending our classes and fundraising events, and now its all really happening!

Last week group one got together for dinner, unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend because I was overloaded with exams and final papers. Sorry I couldn’t make it gang! But I can’t wait to share this experience with all of you!

I would like to thank my family and friends for the support they have given me these past few months. I think they are just as excited as I am, and I cannot wait to come back home to share everything that I learn on this unforgettable trip.

P.s I am a little nervous about flying for the first time and alone! I hope I don’t get lost in the crowd

See you all in New Orleans!

Shauna J.

Aryan is almost there…. Friday, Apr 22 2011 

Hello Everyone,

It still has not fully hit me that in a few days I will be on a plane on my way to New Orleans. I am very excited to be able to go and explore the magic within New Orleans. To listen to jazz music, to hear stories from various people and their experiences, to indulge the food, laugh with new friends and just to be able to embrace new experiences. Last Friday I had the opportunity to meeting some of the members of ‘Group One’ which was very delightful. We met at Jack Astors near the school. I was very impressed with the amount of people that had showed up. At the start I thought that since everyone was occupied with school the turn-out might have been less. My excitement has grown even more to know that I am going on a trip with individuals who have similar passions as mine. I am very relieved that finally the days are passing by and we will be getting on the plane soon. It feels so far away but at the same the time so close by. I won’t deny it I keep imaging in my head how the swamp will look like and once we are the boat. The opportunities that we will get to be involved in are amazing.

It is marked as the one year remembrance after Gulf oil disaster where eleven oil rig workers died.  This was the worst oil offshore spill in American history. The news had reported that the parents, siblings and wives of the workers had gone on helicopter to the area where their love ones’ missing bodies were.  This image of the love ones of the eleven oil rig workers looked out of the helicopter to where their husbands’ bodies could be is very sad. I am very thrilled to learn more about natural disasters through individual’s experiences.  I know I am going to need a lot of tissue paper and hopefully I will keep up with my writing.

Good luck everyone on your exams!!!

See you in New Orleans!

Aryan

~Some final thoughts before we go off on our adventure~ Friday, Apr 22 2011 

Thank you Daphne for your wonderfully moving poem and Karen for your post. I really like that phrase: “getting out of the bog”. I think that really sums up how I feel right now having just finished my exams. I really want to get out there and be more motivated to get involved in social justice. I think it’s really important that we be careful of when our intent is to ‘help’ because I think we have to be cautious of how we become implicated in the politics and the network of power relations. Just because our intent is ‘good’ does not necessarily mean that we will always be able to do ‘good’. We have to be careful that we don’t cause more harm like how we heard stories of organizations building houses that were not up to standards and were unsafe to live in so they had to rebuild all those houses again. Jessica Yee (a native youth sexual rights activist) told me, “ask not how you can be helpful but how you can be less oppressive”. I think that says it all. When you mention the word ‘help’ you automatically put a hierarchical connotation to that relationship. I’ve really been struggling with this recently (especially in terms of international development) and even though the US is not a developing country, it doesn’t mean that the Global South doesn’t live there as well. When you ask yourself, why are you doing this? It always goes back to “I”: I want to help. I want to experience something different. I want to make a difference. Not that “I” isn’t important, but I think it’s really important to question why we are doing this and what kind of effects this will have, and owning it. Of course I think it’s great that we will be able to provide homes for people that have gone almost 6 years without one, but this just takes the responsibility off the state and lets them off the hook. And yet if we don’t do something, then these people in New Orleans will have to go that much longer without a home. Damned if we do and damned if we don’t. How do we hold the government accountable? How do we live in a so-called democratic society when it suppresses dissent and marginalizes people of colour and other minority groups to further the gains of those that already have so much? Of course we cannot make a huge difference but maybe a small one for a few families that hopefully will go a long way to gaining justice for the people in NOLA.

These are some things I felt that I really needed to get off my chest and I think that we need to check our privilege at the airport before we leave and though we cannot change our privilege, by just acknowledging it, I think it can change how we inhabit the world and our worldview so we don’t perpetuate those power relations (unknowingly). I look forward to getting to know everyone and working together as a team and with the community in NOLA to work through these issues. Despite my habit to be a buzzkill, I am truly excited and thankful for having this opportunity to meet you all amazing people and hopefully do something meaningful. I can’t wait til we touch down in New Orleans! See you all there!!!

–  Nancy

P.S. for the first group, don’t forget to vote early this weekend at the advance voting polls!

Nikita’s Pre-trip Blog! :-) Thursday, Apr 21 2011 

Hi all!

Let me start by saying I couldn’t be more ecstatic about our upcoming journey to New Orleans!! With just a little over a week to go, I am itching to say “so long Toronto, so long exams and get ready New Orleans because here we come!” I’ll tell you what I’m dreading most about my preparation for the trip though: Packing! I hate packing, especially since we were all advised to of course pack as light as possible. I never know what to eliminate, but promise to do my best. Aside from the packing, I am super ready to break a sweat in New Orleans from the scorching heat and from giving 150% to helping individuals and families in need.

I recently spent a day volunteering for Habitat for Humanity in Toronto where I had the opportunity to contribute to the construction of houses for low-income families. This certainly reinforced my excitement to help make a difference  and do the same in New Orleans. Too many families are still facing daily reminders of the devastation that Hurricane Katrina introduced. Too many people continue to remain homeless in one of the world’s most richest and powerful countries years after Hurricane Katrina touched down. This is unacceptable! It truly breaks my heart to know how many people suffer from injustices both in my own backyard and across the globe. The global cry for help is loud and cannot afford to be ignored. Together I know we can inspire change, even if it is on a small scale.  I believe that our combined efforts in New Orleans will prove to be a powerful force.

I would also like to take this time to express how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with what I know is an amazing group of individuals who have so much to offer. I anticipate the chance to get to know everyone and build new friendships and ties. I especially would like to thank Pascal Murphy and Tanya Gulliver for all their hard work that continues to go into organizing the NOLA trip and for providing us with what will be a unique experience. Their passion for social justice is simply inspiring! Also, thank you to each and every one of us who contributed to the fundraising efforts! We did a stellar job and surpassed our goal! WE ARE AWESOME! 🙂

Can’t wait to see “y’all” soon! And good luck to everyone on exams (yuck)!

Nikita Sander

And so the countdown begins…10 more days(Marina’s P.T. Blog) Wednesday, Apr 20 2011 

Wow, where do I begin time seems to be going by so quickly in about 10 days group one will be in New Orleans( YAAAHHH) I’m beginning to feel a bit nervous and scared at the same time. I feel blessed to be given this amazing opportunity to help rebuild homes and take part in other volunteer opportunities while volunteering our time in New Orleans. I believe this experience to me will be life changing and rewarding at the same time.

Everyone who I have talked to about this trip has been so supportive and encouraging. I had one family from my classroom buy and give me three books titled “Fodor’s New Orleans 2011″, ” Eyewitness Travel Top 10 New Orleans” and “Frommer’s New Orleans day by day. Can you say I have been totally glued and hooked to these books during my lunch, on the bus and just before bed this passed week.

Now a flash back to class, one of the best films I watched was Spike Lee’s documentary ” When the Levees broke” even though I didn’t see all of the documentary the sections we watched made me feel very emotional and gave me a glimpse of what was happening during the hurricane and as well as how families were affected by this. Another film which was great was ” Hurricane on the Bayou”, I remember one specific point which stuck with me which was “through this disaster- it reminded me how precious family is” I found this statement powerful and very true.

Now moving along on a happier note I  was thrilled I got to meet some more members from group one last week on Friday @ Jack Astor’s. I feel more at ease now and I believe without a doubt that we will all have a blast and a life changing experience down in NOLA! And so the countdown begin’s 10 more days…. I can’t wait for this new chapter to begin. See ya all soon!!!

Cheers,

Marina

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