Tuesday, March 30, 2010

March 30, 2010, Volunteer Reflection

By Kate Coon
College Counselor at Noble and Greenough School

Noble and Greenough High School in Dedham, Massachusetts has been volunteering to New Orleans each spring for the past four years, and the remarkable thing is that each year the group coming down seems to grow larger. This year, our group was the largest yet, with 55 students and 10 teachers, many of whom have come down once, twice and even three times before.

The volunteer department at St. Bernard Project set the stage for what was, for us, a great, great volunteering experience. Everything ran like clockwork -- from the pre-trip communication, to the first orientation on Monday morning, to the well-organized and documented site assignments, to the incredibly competent on-site supervision by our Americorps site supervisors.

We demolded (new word-- "demolderized"), stripped nails, cut up heating vents and smashed out old plumbing -- we rotated out groups to keep teams working on three different sites all week long and every single one of our volunteers found the St. Bernard Project sites to be high points of the week. They would have been happy to go back every single day, so it’s safe to say that next year, we WILL be back!

It is sad, though, that we still need to come back. The rebuilding is real, and encouraging. Houses have fresh paint and pretty flower beds and a sense of community and confidence. But on the same block, you can see a house with the words "Bulldoze -- Take Down Now" spray-painted across the front and the front door open, through which you catch a glimpse at a mound of abandoned household possessions.

All of these experiences amounted to a wonderful week. It was full of challenging moments yet also full of laughter. Students and teachers alike soberly reflected on the "murderous floods," as Professor Rich Campanella called them, and amazement at the resilience of your great city. Everywhere we went, we heard folks and other volunteers sing the praises of St. Bernard Project as the most well-run, effective, and satisfying of volunteer operations. From my experience with many groups, I have to agree. Keep up the great work, and we will be doing some fundraising on our end to help support the mission. And, we'll be back, in force, next spring. Thank you, for everything.

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