Tuesday, July 13, 2010

July 13, 2010, Annie Williams, member of the Blessed Sacrament Parish youth group in DC, blogs about her volunteer experience

Nearly five years after Katrina raged through New Orleans I went with the Blessed Sacrament Church Youth Group, lead by Mr. Mark McCaffrey, to work on a few of the 28,000 homes that were left uninhabitable. It was amazing to see how much work still needed to be done. It was such a great feeling, to know the impact that twenty four students and I, accompanied by five parent chaperones from the Youth Group, were able to make. As volunteers with the St. Bernard Project we were instructed on the use of power tools and guided in our rebuilding efforts.

Listening to the stories of homeowners gave us a better feel of what they have gone through since August 26, 2005, when Katrina struck. As we listened to Gary Bierria tell us his story on the dilapidated front porch of his home, overlooking the FEMA trailer parked in his driveway where he and his family have lived since the storm, we were struck by the enormity of Katrina and the marks it left. Despite all that has happened to the city of New Orleans the cheerful atmosphere still prevails. From the amazing French Quarter to the extremely friendly people we were privileged to be guests of their beautiful city.

We quickly found that New Orleans is a great place to be; with every corner you turn downtown there is a place to feast on seafood, marvel at the unique architecture and the creative street artists, and listen to music galore. After touring the miles of city on foot we enjoyed the respite of the breezy street cars as we made our way to the Loyola University dorms where we stayed. We also enjoyed a swamp tour where we saw alligators, fed them marshmallows, and enjoyed being on the famous Louisiana marshes. Whether it was landscaping in City Park, painting houses and warehouses, chipping paint, hanging dry wall, or touring this fantastic city this trip was an all around great experience.

We will all carry these memories with us and look forward to returning to the city ready to work again. Though there is much work to be done, there are obvious signs of recovery. Starting with the Saints claiming their first Super Bowl title to the numbers of houses that have been repaired, the status of New Orleans is looking up.

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