A reflection from Jessica Hambleton:

When I registered for the CINT912 course back in 2009, I had no idea that the adventure I was embarking on would profoundly change my life. I had visited Flanders Fields as a child and had visited Ground Zero a few years ago but as devastating as those situations were, neither of them inspired me quite like my experience in NOLA almost two and a half years ago.

Jessica and Joy at the 2009 Jazz Fest

Although the above two tragedies were in fact tragedies, there was a sharp difference between those two events and hurricane Katrina: they had the support of their government during the aftermath.  It was saddening to read and watch the devastation prior to arriving in NOLA but it was a whole other level of sad upon arriving.  The first home we came to was owned by a lovely woman named Rebecca who had everyone in tears as she was sharing her story and her joy at finally having her home insulated and started towards rebuilding.  What I began to notice was that even though the stories were emotional for all of us, the residents of New Orleans had this spunk about them that was undeniable.  It wasn’t until our second week of the trip that I realized what that spunk was: determination.  By the time the second week rolled around I was amazed at the sense of community that I was seeing all around.  Even though the city, state and federal government was continuing to let them down, the citizens of New Orleans didn’t let that stop them from reconstructing the city that they loved.  Now don’t get me wrong, they were definitely bitter, and understandably so, but their collaboration and progress they achieved was not only outstanding but also had the added bonus of a ‘screw you we don’t need you’ to all three levels of government.

Jessica digging a community garden in Mid-City

The way the members of the community had come together to change their city was unlike anything I had not only ever experienced but that I had even ever read about.  It was absolutely inspiring.  People who may not have ever talked to each other had Katrina not have hit the city, were now on committees, executive boards, part of community organizations together and changing what was happening in their city, and all without any government help.  It is a committment that was creating successful change. I can only hope that this inspiration can penetrate others’ visions and remind them that anything is possible, literally.