After a very long, 14-hour drive on Saturday, we were all anxious to arrive in New Orleans. However, we had no idea what to expect. Katrina hit about three years ago, and for those of us who had never been here, the devastation that still lingers left us all in complete shock. We began our work at a building that used to be a school and has now been transformed into a center for fine arts. The artists pay the rent by teaching classes, as it is slowly renovated back to what it used to look like before Katrina struck. Just by doing simple things like painting and laying carpet, we made such a difference by the end of the week, and it felt so great to know how much we helped these artists.
We also took a tour of the lower ninth ward where the levies broke, and watched a documentary on the disaster, which really brought everything home. This town still needs so much more help, and with what we learned and experienced on this trip, I know I will be back to help, as well as share my knowledge with others and encourage them to do the same.
Being such a culturally diverse city, New Orleans has had a lot to teach all of us. We have been so fortunate to be able to experience all that the city has to offer from the great Cajun and Creole food to the arts to the nightlife.
During the day, we have been busy helping to paint and lay carpet at a school, which has been converted to a community arts center and community center in the Lower 9th Ward district. Though we aren’t rebuilding houses, I feel so good about supporting the arts and helping to restore public buildings. On New Year’s Eve day, we went to the New Orleans Children’s Museum to volunteer with kids for their New Year’s celebration. We were also able to watch an Imax documentary about hurricanes in this area.
Before this trip, I had no idea about all the devastation and tragic circumstances that had come from Hurricane Katrina. This city needs not only our hands-on help, but the knowledge we can spread and bring back home to new people is so important. I have spoken with local people in the area about their personal experiences and have had a much more personal connection to the city than I would have expected. This has been an eye-opening experience for me and I hope to carry it with me for a long time.