Tuesday, August 17, 2010


It's times like these I wish I were better at conveying my thoughts in writing.  I'm going to do this topic no justice, but I'll try.  I spent the last week in New Orleans, LA (NOLA) with 93 other amazingly selfless individuals from Cincinnati, Ohio.  As a group we worked with Habitat for Humanity and the St. Bernard Project helping build houses for those who lost their homes to Hurricane Katrina.  The week was draining, both physically and emotionally and I am still in recovery mode, so bare with me.  It is impossible to imagine the amount of work that still needs to be done down there, 5 years later (I think someone said, at the current volunteer rate/capacity, it will take 16 years to finish all the rebuilding that needs to be done...16 YEARS?!?!?!?!).   There are still close to 900 occupied FEMA trailers and around 8000 families still in temporary housing! 5 years in a "temporary" house is just unacceptable!  I was so exhausted at the end of each work day, but I still felt like I hadn't done enough, like I wanted to do more even though my body was screaming to stop.  It was nice to find out at the end of the week that the group I went with (Give Back Beyond Cincinnati) has donated 18,000 hours of work in the 5 years since Katrina.  That translates to 9 years of work if you look at a 40 hour work week for 50 weeks a year.  It makes me incredibly proud to call Cincinnati "home".   As exhausting as this trip was I am so glad I went and want to go back again.  Here's a little photo trip though the week...

Before we loaded onto 2 buses, we got a pep talk from our Mayor

after loading onto the 2 buses, we promptly set some ground rules on our bus

then got down to business

16 hours later we arrived in NOLA and set off for our 1st fun activity of the week

where the fabulous Harriet taught us to make some traditional Naw'Lins food

this wanna be chef gives the school 2 thumbs up!

then headed out to Bourbon street

where we may, or may not have busted out the Cupid Shuffle right in the middle of the street

Our 1st day of work was Monday. My team (TEAM AWESOMENESS) would be working on this house

where we mudded/sanded/installed dry wall ALL WEEK!!!!

 and sweat a lot, it was unbelievably hot in that house

and took some necessary breaks.

We didn't have working pluming in the house yet, therefore, no toilet.  With as much water as we were drinking to stay hydrated and cool, this presented a small problem.  Being the resourceful people we are, we started knocking on doors, in search of a nice neighbor who would let us use their facilities.  Upon doing so we met the family who lives in this house.  They not only opened their home/bathroom to us all week, they also shared their story with us.  In short, they stayed in their house during the storm.  Spending 4 days in the dark in their attic eating canned goods and drinking hot, but safe, bottled water, before they were "rescued" and told they must leave their home.  They were taken by a small boat to a barge that was transporting people out of the area.  They were unable to take their dog with them because they did not have a cage to carry him in so they kissed their dog goodbye and boarded the barge which was stocked with lots of ice cold water.  They returned 4 months later and were able to rebuild their house and move back in relatively quickly.  A year after the storm they got a call from their daughter who was living in Alabama saying she had found their dog in PENNSYLVANIA!  The dog was flown from PA to LA the next day and after a few days of getting readjusted, they had their beloved dog back at home with them.  It took everything I had not to break down in sobs while listening to their story.

one of my teammates listening to Rudy's story

At night, we ate sinfully good food

and partied like rock stars

 heard some amazing Jazz music

and ate more yummy food!

We worked hard, partied hard and ate even harder!

I couldn't have asked to work with a better team of people who will forever hold a special place in my heart

In about 3 weeks, a couple of senior citizens who are on a fixed income and cannot afford to replace the home they lost will call this house home.

I came home with a sweet souvenir too
(my feet the day I got home, and my feet normally)


navynest said...

Wow. Thanks for helping to rebuild my beloved NOLA. I worked at an elementary school there in 2006. I hadn't been back since, and on our 'honeymooon'/pcs roadtrip we stopped there and I was astounded at how much work has yet to be done! It looks like you were able to make the most of your visit, do I spot some CdM biegnets there? :)

JG said...

What an amazing trip! I'm sure great memories will keep coming back as time goes by. :)

Nancy said...

I think I accidentally deleted my last comment, so forgive me if you get this twice...

Thank you for sharing your story. That had to be heart breaking and heart warming all at the same time. The story of the family made me cry, I cant imagine if I could hold it together if I were there in person.

(And the biegnets are making me hungry- nom!!)

HaithBears said...

omg. i can't imagine saying goodbye to marley like that!!