I can’t believe that our trip to NOLA is already over.  It seems like yesterday that I was scrambling to pack, and now I have to stuff everything back in my suitcase and prepare for the long trip home to Toronto.  Being here has been an emotional roller coaster ride and an unforgettable learning experience.  Everything that has happened on this trip will stay with me forever because it has changed me as a person. 
 
On Wednesday, Tanya Harris came to speak to us about her community, the Lower Ninth Ward, and everything she has been doing as a community director in order to bring about positive social change.  The community is one that is often neglected by the government, and after Katrina the plan was to use the area for different purposes, such as industrial or green space.  But what about all of the people who live there?  With minimal compensation, they are expected to leave their homes and community behind. 
 
Driving through neighbourhoods such as the Lower Ninth, the empty lots continue to shock me.  It simply doesn’t make sense.  These places are not deserted, the people still live and want to be here, so there is no reason why these houses should not be rebuilt.  That is why I am so proud to have worked with the St. Bernard project this week.  Slowly but surely, the work of volunteers is helping to bring NOLA back.  The welcome home party at the end of our trip has truly made that a reality for me, and seeing for myself that a bunch of volunteers with little or no construction skills can create a home for someone who desperately needs it is truly inspiring. 
 
To the first group: Thank you for everything.  It’s been so amazing working with you all, and I’ve shed many a tear in the past 24 hours just thinking about how much I’m going to miss y’all.  I love you all as well as Pascal and Tanya (thanks for everything!) and I truly feel that we have become a family.
 
To the second group: Get ready for the most amazing time of your life.  You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and although there will be a lot of bumps and curves along the way, you will all come out stronger for having gotten through it together.  Also, never trust Pascal with a frisbee.  I’m so jealous that you are all there right now, I wish I could come back!
 
New Orleans has not seen the last of me.  There is still so much more rebuilding to be done, and so much food left to eat!  I’ll be back soon with some extra help from friends, hopefully y’all will come back too and we can reunite!  For now, I’ll say a temporary goodbye to New Orleans, but no matter where I am, this city and its wonderful people will stay in my heart forever.  Thank you New Orleans, I only hope I gave back at least a small amount of what you have given me.
 
-Paulina
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