Tuesday, March 18, 2008

It's About The Residents

Quote of the day: “People have to make a choice about whether to come back. For me it was between being with my family or beauty. I personally choose my family”

--Violet, homeowner in St. Bernard Parish

Thirty one months. Two and a half years. Nine hundred twenty days. No matter how you say it, the time that has passed since the “final” affects of Hurricane Katrina has been substantial. But we love fads in this country. Fads that range from clothing, music, sports teams, and even relief efforts. How many people have wondered what the aftermath of the Tsunami has been since the initial outburst of support? How many people still think about the state in which New Orleans is still in? Better yet, how many people actually know about the suffering that continues here? It is up to us to help remind people that there is still work to be done. It is for the thousands of residents still living in FEMA trailers. It is for those that don’t have time to work on their house, when they still need to work to pay their bills. And it is for those that simply are unable to do the work and cannot afford it.

Things are getting better, but all is not well. Many people are moving back into the most devastated areas. Many sections still appear to be deserted, but there are people coming back. Unfortunately the tourists that come down and do not venture out of the Garden District and French Quarter will not truly understand that for many people things are still bad and that New Orleans has changed dramatically. It is not until you listen to the stories and see the mass destruction that you truly begin to understand the gravity of the situation. People are still haunted from the flood waters rising in their home while they scrambled to reach their roof. Others still recall with sadness the three day trip they did prior to the storm in order to evacuate that turned into 4 months.

So what can we do? We can listen to them tell their stories and then pass them on. We can volunteer our time to help them rebuild. But if we can’t do those things, we should at least be able to keep them in our hearts and minds. We should be disturbed that as a country we have let this happen to an entire city. My hopes are that as the months continue to pass, we take the time to step back from our busy lives and remember that these people deserve more than they are currently getting from all of us.


Today, our group worked to put siding up on a house that will become the new house to resident of the Lower Ninth Ward Theresa. The people near our site are very friendly, and one can see how thankful they are for the help they receive. After finishing the tiresome but important work on the left side of the building, we began work on the back and right side. We celebrated our supervisor Zach’s birthday with pizza and then nearly finished the back wall. Building Teresa’s home is a slow process, but we take pleasure in knowing that to one person, we will make a difference.

-Ethan, March 18, 2008

Today our group had the opportunity to meet the homeowner for the house we were working on. This had a huge impact on us. By knowing who we were doing the work for, and that they were such nice people, made me think more about the work I was doing. It motivated me to work even harder and do the job with much more care. While I know that I should be willing to do the work with same determination at a home where I have not met the owner, I did not want to let down the people I met.


Today we worked at a house in Saint Bernard’s Parish, a quaint little town on the out skirts of the city of New Orleans. There we met one of the nicest people I have ever been acquainted with by the name of Violet. This woman had everything stripped from her. Her house, her belongings, her way of life and still she kept up the happiest of attitudes towards her situation. Instead of telling us stories about tragedy and loss, Violet told tales of how here family photos survived the waters of Katrina and of how her dog managed to survive the hurricane. It instilled in me a sense of awe how someone could go through so much and still give out such a great aura. It just goes to show southern hospitality will never die. What truly amazed me though is the stories we have heard from all the survivors have all been terrible, awful and sad. But through it all they maintain the attitude that they will persevere, carry on and never give up no matter what. This is why the people of New Orleans are the nicest, friendliest and most wonderful people in all of America. This is what America should strive for. To appreciate every breath that enters your lungs.

-Jesse G.

Today was the first day we got to interact with the people whose houses we have been working on. Our morning started off rather tediously, as we did mold remediation; as a result, no one was really exerting themselves all that much. The highlight of our day came when we spoke with the victims of Hurricane Katrina whose houses we had been repairing. We got to hear first hand accounts of their stories of survival. But as they praised us for the volunteer work we had been doing at their houses and offered to cook us traditional New Orleans cuisine for lunch, we gained new incentive to work harder the next day. We want to repay them for all their praise and hospitality by working even harder tomorrow so that we can let them live in their house even sooner. Our experiences today gave new meaning to the work we have been doing in New Orleans.

--Marcus and Ari

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