I can’t believe the last two weeks are officially over, as I sit here in my downtown Toronto apartment, I am still trying to wrap my head around not waking up to Julia’s early morning cell phone alarms, no early morning drives down St.Claude to the worksites and the endless amount of buffet dinners we partook in throughout the last two weeks. As I continue this journey in processing all of my feelings and experiences, I will continue to reflect upon the people I have met, the stories I have been told, the devastation I saw, as well as the resilience apparent throughout the New Orleans community.

Community has been one word which I believe can summarize and incorporate the multi faceted process of CINT912. I first want to start off by saying thank you to each and everyone of you session 1 NOLA 11’ers (Tanya and Pascal as well), you truly are an incredible group of people who have provided me with strength, support and motivation throughout the last two weeks. Spending two weeks continuously with individuals is challenging, however our group dynamics amazed me, as we all vibed incredibly well together, and I am proud to be apart of the family we have  collectively created (a family which will occasionally break out in late night shower sing-a-longs to Motown medley’s (yes Karin, I have it recorded)).

As I’m writing this, I find myself filled with very raw emotions, as I find it difficult to express the extent of how much I have developed, been challenged and reflected in regards to the New Orleans community and the long lasting deeply rooted effects of oppression prevalent within the Lower 9th Ward,  which Hurricane Katrina merely exacerbated. It’s frustrating that such a rich, vibrant and welcoming culture has been stripped of many of their fundamental human rights as American citizens and ultimately has become invisible to the outside world. As I came through Customs today, I was asked by the customs officer reasoning as to why I was in Louisiana, I replied by saying I was involved in rebuilding efforts within New Orleans. He seemed confused, he then asked me what I meant in regards to rebuilding, and I had explained I was volunteering with organizations to rebuild the homes that were effected by Katrina. He looked at me as though I was incredibly stupid, and stated ” wasn’t that like ten years ago”…It’s comments such as this that demonstrate the ignorance,  obliviousness and lack of knowledge surrounding the societal effects of Katrina and it’s impact upon the New Orleans community.  The aforementioned has become a huge barrier as well as a site of motivation for me to become an advocate for the NOLA community. It is through these minimal conversations (to custom officers), blog posts, Facebook albums and coffee dates, that we are able to educate others upon the marginalization and inequalities that are occurring within areas such as the Lower 9th Ward. Throughout this entire process, I have seen the imperative need for community organizing and the importance of volunteers in helping rebuild the diverse communities that have been effected by Katrina, whether it be dry-walling, mould remediation, painting or building closets, each and every minute that a volunteer helps is integral and appreciated.

I have truly appreciated being involved with St.Bernard Project, The Green Project and welcomed into Ms. Rebecca’s home so graciously. Although, I have only spent 2 weeks working within the Lower 9th Ward, it will always have a piece of my heart – I want to thank each and every community member of the Lower 9th and St Bernard Parish, that have been so incredibly accepting and welcoming, your resilience, positivity and kindness are overwhelming, I will be back and will be bringing back friends and family to continue to further volunteer efforts and create even more ever lasting friendships.

I’ll be seeing you,

Becki Lewis, xo.