Do You Want Fries With That? Friday, Aug 28 2015 

TW K10

When the McDonald’s opened on Judge Perez in Chalmette in May 2012 I was pretty excited (especially for an environmentalist). To me it represented growth, change and recovery. In fact, you could say that McDonald’s represented hope to me:

  • It was going to be open 24 hours a day in the heart of Chalmette.
  • It has free wi-fi providing access to people who can’t afford it.
  • It has “healthy” food (hey, it’s the south. McDonald’s has salad and yogurt!)
  • It was the third location to open in da parish.

It was the last point that was most important to me. I can’t imagine a multi-national corporation investing capital/supporting a franchisee to build a new location if they didn’t think it would be sustaining. The large number of other fast food chains popping up support this logic too.  Sandwiched as it is between the Lower 9th ward — which has almost nothing by way of groceries/restaurants — and New Orleans East — which is also a food desert, St. Bernard is experiencing a recovery of sorts economically, even when on a personal level people are still suffering.

St. Bernard Parish was about 50% returned as of the last census, maybe 55-60% now. It’s a changed community. Lots more green space — where houses used to be — and not everyone is home.


So many people have moved across the lake to St. Tammany Parish that its nickname is now St. Tamm-Bernard. So certainly, recovery does not mean restoration to a pre-Katrina state. That is, unfortunately, never going to happen.

But the McDonald’s made me think…and these are questions I’ll be asking in my dissertation research…

  • What are your signs of recovery?
  • What was the marker (or what will it be if it hasn’t happened yet) that let you know your community is in recovery/has recovered?
  • What makes you feel like your home is back?

Because I feel like we have a lot of “fake signs of recovery“. Take this “lovely” social housing project for example.


Known as Marrero Commons, these houses, just a few blocks away from me on Martin Luther King Blvd are supposed to replace BW Cooper/Calliope. Until Katrina there were 1,550 units. Construction started in 2008 and people moved in four years later. According to the HANO website there are 250 units, of which 143 are public housing. Phase One cost of $158 million. Even assuming that the website is out of date, there were over 4,000 residents pre-Katrina and less then 1,000 at the 2010 census.

Or what about this lovely patch of green grass and fresh mulch on the neutral ground on Claiborne in the Lower 9th. I was workers out laying this on August 19th and 20th 2015…just in time for the President and all the media that is descending for K10.


I guess it’s important that the L9 looks good this week, but it doesn’t matter how the community feels about it the rest of the year. Are they not important enough for nice grass?

So tell me GNO folks. Have you a personal marker of recovery? What is it?


Support the NOLA students Wednesday, Mar 23 2011 

Interested in what my students are doing? Want to help out? Ryerson issues charitable receipts for amounts over $20.

(Americans who wish to donate should support the St. Bernard Project directly).

To make an online donation to the entire group please see the following steps:

1. Go To

2. Go down the section that states

Step 1: Gift Information
Your gift may be designated for use in multiple areas. Choose the designations for your gift by clicking on the link below.

Choose Gift Designation

Click here to choose the designation(s) for your gift
(Click the bolded line above that takes you into a fund destination tree)

3. This brings you to the Fund Selection Page
You will see that New Orleans Community Services Trip has been added as a direct link to select to make a gift.

Click New Orleans …. and make the gift. Help us rebuild!!

What’s new with St. Bernard Project? Thursday, Nov 4 2010 

As regular readers know the St. Bernard Project is one of my favourite organizations here in NOLA.  When my parents were visiting in September I took them to the 312th Welcome Home Party for Glenda Ceaser. It was catered by top chefs from across the US including President Obama’s own chef, Cris Comerford.  This picture shows Chef Comerford speaking as the Ceasar family looks on.

They have recently launched a Home for the Holidays campaign. Or if you are on Facebook you can see the Facebook event listing here to spread the word.

You can help give the gift of home to 15 deserving families by raising funds for St. Bernard Project’s “Home for the Holidays” campaign. SBP’s goal is to raise $300,000 by January 7 to fund the rebuilding of 15 deserving families’ homes so they can begin making lasting memories together once more.



In other news, the St. Bernard Project was named one of 10 American Groups making a difference by US News.

The article summarizes the work that they do and the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of their work.

They even made the cover!!




Finally, the St. Bernard Project is engaged in another vote-getting contest on Facebook. Their last effort with the Pepsi Refresh the Gulf contest resulted in $250K to support their work with the oil spill.

This one is with Entergy and is called “Power to Care”. You can vote twice a month on Facebook. You’ll find St Bernard Project under Louisiana (not New Orleans). They can win $25000!!

Wanna go to New Orleans? Monday, Nov 1 2010 

It’s that time again…we’re accepting applications for the 2011 New Orleans trip. Deadline is Nov 12th 2010. Leave a comment if you would like more information.

Students at any university in Ontario – and anyone interested who is not a student – are welcome to join the trip (non-students still need to register for the course and pay tuition, attend classes etc),

‘Community Development: International Field Experience’ CINT912 provides an
opportunity for students to deepen their understanding of development issues,
and to experience part of their learning in an interdisciplinary, international, and
intercultural setting. For May 2011, Canadian students will work with organizations
in New Orleans, Louisiana. Following a brief in-class orientation at Ryerson, the
field experience portion of the course takes place in New Orleans. Canadian
students will work with local residents, NGOs, and other volunteers on specific
projects related to post-Katrina recovery work.

This course is based on principles of experiential learning, namely that in addition to the classroom, learning also occurs through individual and collective critical reflection and analyses of practice. Through this process, students are expected to acquire skills essential for change and lifelong learning.

Continuous reflection on the learning process itself and on its objectives will help students develop skills in critical analysis, appreciation for interdisciplinary and intercultural perspectives, as well as awareness of their roles as professionals and world citizens.

The course will provide opportunity to experience the following:

•     Learn about community development in a unique socio-political setting

•     Build relations within lower-income neighbourhoods

•     Gain an understanding of the interconnections between class and race

•     Participate in small inter-disciplinary teams while gaining professional experience and

5 things to do times 2 Friday, Aug 20 2010 

Hard to believe it’s just 9 days to the 5th anniversary of Katrina.  My ongoing back problems (pinched nerve) has made writing at the computer challenging…but I think I am well enough to start playing catch-up.  So expect a few posts in the next few days…

Today’s post is about the initiatives the great folks at the St Bernard Project have going on for the anniversary. There are 5 things they are doing and 5 things you can do from home!

As regular readers of this blog know, SBP is one of my favourite organizations to volunteer with. My students and I have volunteered on all three trips and my partner and I have volunteered a few additional times as well.

These folks work hard with great results. More importantly, they “get it” – they use locals in their work, listen to locals and understand the needs of the community.

There are also 5 ways you can be a part of SBP’s team from home and help solve these solvable problems:

1. Vote for SBP to win $250,000 in the Pepsi Refresh Challenge – It’s easy. You can vote once a day from each email that you may have…they’re in third and the top 2 win $250,000 – help push them over the edge. The money goes to expand mental health services and to provide jobs for people affected by the oil spill.

2. Host a fundraiser in your community for SBP – This doesn’t have to be elaborate. Bring together a group of people to watch When the Levees Broke or Trouble the Water or any of the other amazing Katrina-films. Share a supper at home instead of going out and donate the money  you would have spent. Skip your coffees and lattes for the next 9 days…every penny counts.

3. Commit to volunteer in New Orleans in the coming 12 months – If you’re a friend of mine, don’t forget, I provide a free couch or futon or floorspace for folks who are coming to volunteer. I can also help you obtain cheap housing in the community. New Orleans is a wonderful town to visit – but give of yourself while you’re here!

4. Spread the word; 1,000+ families are still living in FEMA trailers because they own homes
they can not afford to rebuild, thousands of uninsured residents suffer from mental health problems related to the oil spill and Katrina. Tell your family, friends and community these stats and SBP’s solutions. Use Facebook, Twitter, blog, email, newspaper and other outlets and ask them to do 5 for 5.

5. Donate directly to SBP or via text by sending NOLA to 50555 – The texting  only works in the US. Tell all your American friends about this great opportunity to send $5 to NOLA. Otherwise, send a US money order or you can paypal/email transfer me the money and I will take it over to them. Don’t let a border be an excuse!!


It’s easy to forget, when you’re not here, just how much devastation occured, and continues. So we’ll end with a few photos…of loss and of hope…

Picture your school gymnasium. Ceilings of at least 20 ft. This is how high the water reached at a school (now Camp Hope for volunteers) on Aycock Street in Arabi, St. Bernard Parish, May 2010.

Inside the townhouses on Florida…social housing…neglected and mostly torn down (July 2010).

A stuffed animal in the mailbox of a house in Gentilly, July 2010.

Not quite straight, in the Lower Ninth Ward, May 2009.

My partner Michael building a home for seniors on Serpas St. (Oct 2009) with the St. Bernard Project.

The “boys” of CINT 912 – May 2009 – rebuilding with Common Ground in the Lower Ninth ward.

A Welcome Home party with the St. Bernard Project, May 2010.

Welcome Sarah! Friday, Feb 12 2010 

Hey! My name is Sarah and I’m currently in my fourth year at York majoring in Environmental Studies, with a focus on environmental politics. From a very young age my mother instilled in me the value of preserving our environment, which probably subconsciously fed my interest for saving the environment and led me to this program. After my first year at York, and hearing about the extent of the injustice throughout the world I found myself more than interested in global issues, and where exactly I fit into that equation.

I have been lucky enough to travel to Venezuela, El Salvador and Modesto, California volunteering with Global Youth Network, working with children and families, local organizations, and experiencing the culture first hand. These experiences have allowed me to learn more about global issues and grow as person while helping others.

I live at home with my parents, my brother, my 2 year old nephew (who is definitely the best person I know), and my greyhound Bailey. I love just playing and being ridiculous with my nephew, hanging out with friends, dancing, reading, travelling, and I must admit shopping does make me pretty happy at times. I absolutely love animals and I have had quite a few pets in my life. I played baseball for twelve years, and still like to get together in the summer to play a friendly game! I currently work at a pharmacy, where I have been for 8 years as a Pharmacy Technician, and I can actually say I do love my job. I like to take risks, try new things and can be pretty adventurous, but I am terrified of bridges- I’m trying to work on that.

I couldn’t be more excited for this opportunity to travel to New Orleans, lend a helping hand and experience the culture and southern hospitality we here so much about! Programs like this give you the chance to make a difference in someone’s life, and I’m extremely proud to be a part of it. I would just like to send a HUGE thank you to everyone who has been so supportive of me, and especially Tanya and Pascal for creating such an amazing opportunity!

Next Up…Louise Chau Wednesday, Feb 10 2010 

Hello Everyone!

My name is Louise Chau and I am a third year Early Childhood Education student here at Ryerson. Upon graduation, I am working hard towards getting my teachers qualifications as well as my masters. I have a strong professional background with children with special needs. I currently work with the City of Toronto as a Special Needs Support Worker. I have an immense passion for working with children and families, I think it is a really rewarding experience to be able to help others and educate.

Alright, so onto some fun stuff……

I enjoy long walks on the beach, and talking all night long. I love sushi and peppermint tea. I will eat almost about anything. I have a super asian family and three sisters. I listen to really heavy music and go to shows quite often. I absolutely love clothes, so let’s go shopping on our off hours. I am an excellent volleyball player, I play for a Toronto team during the summer months. I also have an obsession watching youtube makeup tutorials. Unfortunately.

I am really excited for New Orleans and I am lucky to be given this opportunity to change the lives of the people that have been affected by Hurricane Katrina.

See you all there!

Alison Hepburn’s Up! Wednesday, Feb 10 2010 

Hi Everybody!!! My name is Alison Hepburn, and I am a Continuing Education student at Ryerson University. I’m enrolled in the part-time Health Information Management program, which is building on my previous studies in Health Information. I currently work fulltime at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, as the Team Lead for the Health Records Department and Privacy Office. Work and school tend to fill up most of my time, leaving very little opportunities to let loose. Despite this, I recognize the benefit in working hard and striving for success, and I know it will all be worth it in the long run!

When I’m not busy with work or school, I love to spend my free time with my family and friends. My loved ones are very important to me, so any chance I have to be with them I’m going to take! I also love the outdoors, and taking in all the beauty the world has to offer. Being from a small town on the Bruce Peninsula, I grew up with Georgian Bay and the Niagara Escarpment in my backyard. This upbringing has influenced my feelings towards nature, and resulted in my deep love for fresh country air and beautiful star-filled skies at night.

While in New Orleans, I am hoping to make some new friends while working towards a mutual goal of helping those who have been through so much. Tanya and Pascal, through their course “Homelessness in Canadian Society”, have helped me realize I have a desire to help others, and I can’t think of a better opportunity for me to act on that desire. I hope to work hard, learn lots, and have fun, all while helping to change the lives of some very deserving people.


Judy’s first blog Sunday, Feb 7 2010 

Hello World, its Judy here. I am a Nutrition and Food major at Ryerson University. However, growing up I have always been fascinated by houses; whether if it was looking at floor plans, or watching house related shows on tv, or actually house hunting, or looking into becoming a realtor, I have always loved houses! At one point, I was going to transfer into an architecture program, but due to my lack of artistic abilities… I had to rethink my change of plans. If you ask any of my friends, they know that I have this desire to one day build a house. So when this opportunity came up, I was immediately on board. I have always wanted to get involved with an organization like Habitat for Humanity, but I have never got around to it because of my lack of time. And so going to New Orleans was the perfect way for me to get a chance to help build a house!

On this trip I hope to learn about New Orleans, the people and the culture. Gain skills which I never had prior to this trip, and hopefully use that in the future to build my own house. I hope to build bonds and lasting friendships with all the others going on this trip and create one-in-a-life-time memories which will never be forgotten. At the same time, I am looking forward to giving back to a city that is in need and showing that there is still hope in humanity given all the difficulties and obstacles these individuals have had to face. Together we can rebuild New Orleans and continue to bring families back home.

On a side note, BIG THANKS to everyone who has made this trip possible (Tanya, Pascal, Ryerson, etc.) and to everyone who continues to support us along the way. Without you, this wouldn’t be possible!

Students for 2010…the bios begin Saturday, Feb 6 2010 

Toronto2NOLA is pleased to announce that we have two classes of students who will be travelling to New Orleans in May to rebuild houses and wetlands. We will be working primarily with The St. Bernard Project which has brought 262 families home so far. Each class will be there for two weeks at a time.

We have asked the students to each write a bio for all of you to read so that you can learn more about them.

Check back regularly for updates.

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