Monday, March 26, 2012

march 26, 2012

March 26th, 2012
                    Today was our first day getting out there and doing some manual labor. We got up bright and early (5:45 AM) and drove to a group orientation. We joined about 5 other groups and learned about how the St. Bernard project got started from curly-haired Simon. He told us a story about a man named Frank who, after the storm, sat on his roof for a long time, with a white flag, waiting to be saved. When he was finally saved, he was taken higher ground (a bank’s roof, the highest point in the area), where waited six days for rescue. He was finally saved by a Canadian Mounties, and he was disappointed that his country had not looked out for him. This story inspired the founding of the St. Bernard project. Simon told us that the St. Bernard project has seen great success, rebuilding 437 houses in the past 5 years, but that the work they do is never enough. Until recently, they had a 135-person waiting list that they had to shut down because they did not want to promise houses to people for whom they couldn’t build. Even 7 years later, there are still many people in New Orleans who need our help more than ever.

                We then split up and drove to our specific work-sites. Most of us did the tedious work of sanding drywall and skimming--applying a thin coat of drywall mud.. Although this was really tough and not so fun, we had to keep in mind that we were still helping people out, and even the toughest jobs need to get done somehow. On one site, we met the owner of the home, named Theresa, which was a very meaningful experience. The house on the other site was the only house on the street that was left to be rebuilt, as every other house had been completed, so we were motivated to get it done. After lots of satisfying work, we broke for lunch, and wiped seemingly tons of dirt and drywall off of our clothes and heads.

After working, we paid a visit to the Annunciation Church, which served as a recovery center during the storm, which is run by two individuals who not only lived through, but prospered through the storm. Jean and James were both able to view the positive side of the situation. Jean talked about how she needed to take a step down to take many steps up, and James said that the days he spent sheltered in the Convention Center (where racial, economic, and governmental distinctions were irrelevant) were “the best 5 days of [his] life.” Nevertheless, the two spoke emotionally about their experiences in the storm, and were extremely grateful to see us down in New Orleans.  Jean said that our service was an integral part of her mental recovery process. They emphasized that the damage was great, but that our reactions to the storm is what is more important. It’s hard to sum up how moving it is to hear such a “survivor” speak about his or her life-changing experience.

Tomorrow, we will return to our job sites ready to work, and continue our experience in NOLA.

-Haley Cashman, Carl Haber, Jacob Slater

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