Traveling to Alabama brought my volunteering experience to an entirely new perspective.  We left New Orleans towards Tuscaloosa around 5am Wednesday.  Despite the fact that we had been up late working and then packing for our trip on the previous day we were still very excited to visit Alabama and curious about what the experience had in store for us.  Once we finished registering we were sent off to a warehouse type building that felt like an abandoned factory or an oversized Wall-mart.  The place was lined with bags and bags of stuffed full of donated items that had been sent in from all over America. I was completely overwhelmed to see the amount of items that had been donated.  I did not expect to see so many bags of clothing, stacks of food and baby stuff, bottles of water, beds and bath items to name just what was in eyesight.  Everything was arranged in different sections where it then needed to be reorganized by other volunteers while at the same time there were trucks still coming in to drop more and more items to a point where I began to think that they might not even have enough room for it all.  It was hard to picture all the individual people from around the country that each item represented.  It was amazing to think about how they were all certainly different types of people, with different backgrounds, and jobs, and yet here was the proof of all them coming together without even knowing it to do something good for people they might never even meet.  The sad part about all this was that it seemed like there weren’t nearly enough volunteers in the warehouse to actually organize it all so that we could get it out to the people who needed it most. I was very saddened by that thought.  That people all over the country were willing to donate needed items and we could get it here but we just didn’t have enough people to get it out.  But I have to admit that the people in charge of the warehouse were very kind to all of us and the hours of hard work we all put it at least made a little bit of difference.

After work we had an opportunity to walk around the area that was directly hit by the tornado. No one in the group had the words to describe the images that we saw.  It was so unbelievable that I almost couldn’t really understand what it all was.  Houses were destroyed so badly that they looked like toy house smashed under someone’s foot and yet there were tables and chairs in front of them as though not too long ago people were sitting there having dinner in what was once a living room.  While I was standing on that road I was thinking of all the people who still missing and I felt lost knowing that it was so outside of my control to find them. I’m still unable to process what it was I faced today and I know that I will never forget it.

Today we were volunteering at a different warehouse.   This warehouse was also distributing clothing, food, shoes, baby stuff (e.g. diapers, bottles, etc) to people who in need. I was happy to reorganize one of the baby sections with Elton and Karen and at the end of the day we were very proud that we were able to accomplish our goal.  My heart will always be with those who are missing and those who were affected by this event. I would like to encourage more people to take an opportunity and volunteer in their communities because this work is essential and needed, not only at the Tuscaloosa warehouse relief centres but even in our home towns. Tanya and Pascal thank you for giving us a wonderful opportunity to experience something different in our lives.

Sara Nemati