It has officially been one week since my flight landed in New Orleans, but it feels like I’ve accomplished a month’s amount of work since then. I have never felt so welcomed in a city, as I have in New Orleans, I can truly say that the people I have met here are the most genuine down to earth people. From the moment I landed, I have felt so welcomed and so appreciated from each and everyone of the locals that I have met. Although I’ve read a vast amount of literature pertaining to Hurricane Katrina and watched countless films regarding the societal effects and ideologies surrounding the disaster, it doesn’t become real until you drive down the roads and see empty houses and or lots. Houses in which families are still not able to move into, lots where death toll numbers of family members still mark endless amounts of doors. This past week has been filled with overwhelming emotions of frustration, anger and confusion surrounding government responses to Katrina, after seeing the current conditions in which individuals and families are still living in years after.

Throughout the past week, I have been at the Green Project, which is an organization that operates as both a warehouse store and lumber yard to sell building materials that otherwise would go into New Orleans Area landfills. For me this was an eye opening experience to see how passionate the workers and volunteers were within this organization as they were working to make being environmentally friendly easily accessible for everyone. Moreover, the idea of using fragments of peoples homes from after the Hurricane to reuse to rebuild another individuals home post Katrina, is very comforting to me and further facilitates the idea and feeling of community within New Orleans.

The second project that I have been working on throughout the week included helping rebuild a woman’s house named Rebecca. Instantly after meeting her, I felt a sense of appreciation and acceptance. During our introduction, she began to list off the endless amount of things that needed to be rebuilt within her home, and I became incredibly overwhelmed, as I couldn’t even imagine how she was feeling. She was such a positive woman, which was so very inspiring to see. We decided on a couple of tasks which included weeding, insulation, building her a closet shelf, sanding her front door steps and finally fixing her roof. Although, these tasks at times proved to be exhausting, especially in the humid NOLA weather, completing them made it so worth the while. It’s also great to be working with such a supportive group, as we are able to build upon one another strengths, it facilitates an incredibly positive environment. Throughout my time working at Rebecca’s house, I kept on trying to imagine what Rebecca had gone through, how she was feeling, but it was impossible. I acknowledge that I won’t ever possibly understand the multi- faceted, deeply rooted and complex experiences that each unique individual went through. I have realized that my role as a volunteer, social work student and activist, is to listen to the personal experiences of each person and re-tell and share their stories with anyone and everyone who will listen.

As you can see I’m still processing these experiences, but I look forward to what next week will bring as we will be heading to Alabama bright and early Monday morning to volunteer in disaster relief.

Until next time,
Becki Lewis