Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Human Connection

March 15th

Quote of the Day: Every time a grandparent dies a library is lost. ~Colin Phillips (neighbor of the house we were working on)

Today we returned to the Lower Nine organization in the Lower Ninth Ward and continued to work on the same house from Friday. We suited up in our full-body plastic gear and continued to prepare the wood frame for dry-walling. Today that preparation involved removing the remaining nails, scraping the mold off of the wood, and applying a mold-killing solution.

The highlight of the day came when the neighbor, Colin Phillips, came over to thank us for the work we were doing, and then invited us to take oranges from his orange tree. We joined him in his yard for the refreshing snack and as we ate, he shared his gratitude and many words of wisdom. Meeting people like Colin who show so much appreciation make our seemingly monotonous work seem so much more meaningful and worthwhile.

-Ali and Emily

Today the other group worked on a house that is still in the initial stages of the rebuilding process. We were very surprised that after three and half years, this house had not been touched at all until about two months ago. We worked on cleaning out much of the garbage that was left in and around the house. It was a messy and slow moving job, but by the end of the day there was a large pile of wood, scraps, and trash bags on the side walk, ready to be picked up, and the back yard and first floor were clear of rubble.

During our lunch break and towards the end of the day we had the privilege of meeting and spending time with the owner of the house. We listened to him as he told us his life story: he spoke of his passion for photography, his experience during Katrina, and his love for New Orleans. From speaking to him it was clear that he was appreciative of our presence in New Orleans, helping him rebuild his house. He realized that for us, at least initially, coming here was more of an abstract idea, going somewhere to help somebody, and he told us how thankful he was that the “somebody” we ended up helping was him. After hearing his story and putting a face to the person we were helping, we felt much more motivated to push forward with our task, and our sense of accomplishment at the end of the day felt more significant.


As I was walking through the airport, I could tell right as I saw a jazz picture that I was in New Orleans; including the 60 degree weather. With three minivans, three teachers, and a bunch of Gann Academy students, we were ready to take on all the challenges ahead of us. The last three days (even though we worked only two) were amazing. Helping take out and put in a new floor. Even just taking nails out of old wood felt good. We listened to a man speak from one of the houses we were working on and it made me feel so much happier of what I was doing. Another man talked from the bottom of his heart about how happy he was we are helping out. Someone who did not know us and had no relationship with us invited us over to his yard to eat oranges from his orange tree. Even though we have only been here for a few days, we have done so much work. Imagine what work we can do with 5 more days!


Today, as we were working in a house, a neighbor popped his head in through the door and told us how happy he was that we were helping out the New Orleans community. He told us that if we wanted to take a break, that we could come over next door, pick some oranges from his orange tree, and hangout with him. At 2:30, we took a break, and headed on over to his house to have some oranges, and chat with him. He had many things to say, all of them interesting, and all of them inspiring. Looking back, one of his comments really stuck to me. He told us that in life we have a choice: either work hard and play later, or play now and work later. I really thought that what he said was wise, because that is a dilemma that high school students have to go through a lot of the time. Most want to hangout with friends, and relax, but should do work for the future. He had many other pieces of advice and expressed his thankfulness multiple times telling us that the world is full of great people like us and that it’s good to know that there are people who still remember and care for the residents of New Orleans. It was good for me to know, that the people are glad that we are helping them.


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