Sunday, March 27, 2011

Day 3

Today marked the first day of physical labor. Starting at 12, we worked with a volunteer group, to clean up an area in the Lower Ninth Ward, a place that was especially hurt by Hurricane Katrina. Nothing but the concrete foundations were left in many of the houses in this area. We got to see first hand what people had lost. Although many of the objects we picked up were just trash, we also came across many meaningful items such as dolls, pictures, and baby shoes.

It only took a few minutes after our arrival at the worksite for a man from the neighborhood to pull up and talk to us. He thanked us and told us how important and meaningful our help was to him. After reflecting about his kind words I noticed the impact of our work. Aside from trash we were also told to pick up any rocks that we saw so that they could be used to decorate the garden we were cleaning around. After 4 hours of hard work a massive pile of rocks had been formed next to the garden. At that moment I couldn’t imagine how the volunteer group would ever be able to use all of what we collected to decorate the small garden. Later on though, I noticed that it didn’t really matter whether or not the rocks would be used. What mattered most was that our effort showed the community that people still cared about them and are there to support them, even 6 years after their devastation.


Seeing as this was the first physical work that we would be doing, we were all eager to get started. We found out that this particular day we would only be working in a garden and not actually doing any building, at first, some of our enthusiasm was drained because, to many, this didn’t seem like it would be something as fulfilling and helpful as building a home for someone. However, after we learned a little from one of the LowerNine volunteers about the impact that a community garden would have on this neighborhood and actually saw with our own eyes the physical state that the community was in, our perspectives began to change. We started to understand how deeply a part of their society the concept of a local community was to the people, and once the hurricane hit, it created a lot of strain and struggle to keep these communities intact. Because the flooding left these people with little, creating (or even beginning to create) a communal aesthetic area for the people to enjoy began to seem almost as meaningful as building an actual home, especially since it would be aiding an entire neighborhood as apposed to just a family.

Another thing we learned was how much local produce and eating fresh means to the people of New Orleans. As I was hosing freshly planted dirt mounds of corn, the man who was working with us explained to me that in about two months, these mounds would become a harvestable crop. As he told me this, I realized that besides the aesthetic value that this garden would contain, it too would be a fresh source of food for the community to enjoy. Though I knew I was just doing a small piece of a much larger project, I really had a deep, yet unexpected sense of fulfillment.


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