Thursday, March 4, 2010

Another Spring Break in New Orleans

Last year, a group of students, staff and faculty from Brenau University (as well as my wonderful Mom and husband) made our way down to New Orleans to spend our spring break rebuilding homes. As it quickly climbed the ladder to become one of the most memorable life experiences for many of us, we decided to return this year. This time with a group of 17, we are working with Habitat for Humanity in Harvey, Louisiana.

By far, one of the coolest parts about this year's trip is reconnecting with the homeowner whose home we worked on last year with St. Bernard Project. We were the first work group in her home, tasked with scrubbing and killing mold and sealing any and every piece of wood to prevent any mold in the future. The homeowner, Lisa, is a single Mom and grandmother and a police officer in St. Bernard Parish. She had been out of her home for nearly four years, but after the help if this wonderful organization, she was able to move back in about six months ago.

Last night we went to see her house. Seven of us had worked on the home last year and were completely astonished at how beautiful it was. Although we spent a full week working in it, the house was hardly recognizable on the inside. Even better was the smile on Lisa's face. The positive attitude, appreciation and sense of humor reminded me why we fell in love with her last year.

This year, working with Habitat, it is a different, but good experience. While we don't have contact with the homeowner and don't see the original home, we are seeing a different area and learning new skills. I can't believe how fast they are able to build a home. I also love that even with the very specific projects that we are working on, the site coordinators have managed to come up with all sorts of jobs that are perfect for two girls in wheelchairs.

My favorite part about this city is the rich culture and the hope possessed by the people here. So many of them have every right to be angry, and while some may be, so many others choose to project the hope that they have and the gratitude they feel toward those coming to help rebuild, even when the help is coming so long after it was needed.

On my way here, I got a tweet from a good friend of mine. She said that "the heart grows when you serve others." I don't know if anything else rings more true. Because of these experiences, I know that I will always seek out a way to help others in need, and especially my fellow Americans. This week, several people commented at how wonderful they think it is that people in wheelchairs are down here rebuilding homes. Hopefully, this notion inspires others to give what they can of their time and abilities to help this world become a better place. Maybe this little post will help as well.

Habitat for Humanity

St. Bernard Project