Since being back from New Orleans many people have asked me about my experiences on the trip. I find it so hard to explain because you truly have to visit New Orleans in order to fully grasp how wonderful the city is. I have learned so much from this mini-term and I am glad that I was able to help people get back into their homes. I can’t stop talking about the amazing people I met while down in Louisiana and also how fortunate I was to be apart of the mini-term. New Orleans will always have a place in my heart because of this trip.
-Nate, class member
Naturally, being home is completely different than doing Community Service for two weeks in Louisiana. A special opportunity that home has brought to me besides being reunited with family and friends is time to really understand the experiences that I had in Louisiana. I learned and saw some things that are not readily available at a private, isolated college. I encountered some unimaginable poverty, some incredible racism, and a lot of irreplaceable devastation. The citizens of Southern Louisiana have experienced things I would not even begin to understand. Even though the people of Louisiana continue to face hardship in their daily lives, they maintain an unfailing amount of hope. Experiencing something so radically different than my own daily life has not only put my life in perspective but also has humbled me. From the first day of work, hearing all Isabelle’s struggles and stories of accomplishment through incredible hard work, I feel as though Louisiana has given me some tools to grow as a person. Talking to others about the state of Southern Louisiana is kind of a happy thing to discuss while also have tinges of sadness. Fortunately, the devastation in New Orleans and Dulac is slowly being recovered, but on the other hand if helpful, storm damage prevention is not continually put into place, then the natural disasters will continue to win over the people of Lousiana. It is upsetting to think that the politics and underlying prejudices are getting in the way of these people living easier lives.
-Ally, class member
Two weeks of service in Louisiana reassured me that compassion lives strong in the hearts of America. The volunteers I encountered along the way are people that saw a need greater than themselves, they sacrificed their comfort of home, moved from all over the country, to lend a hand to a battered part of New Orleans. These volunteers made me see that a person has the power to do great things, that my two little hands can help place a smile in the world. I am proud to say that I too got to contribute my little grain of sand to this ongoing project, and that those families will move back home sooner because of my help.
-Grace, class member
At this point I have been physically removed from the trip for three weeks but my experience with my peers in Louisiana will last for a lifetime. When I first got back, I described the trip in great detail to my mentor and it took nearly a half hour to describe the people, food, inside jokes, the laughter, and how this experience has changed my worldview. When others have asked about my experience I have acquired a brief response that I have almost gotten down to a science but I am always open to give more information to those who are curious.
I believe the thing I will miss most about this trip was the group. When I started the trip I had the vibe that we had the potential to work together cohesively even though we were so different and I was so happy to see that my vision became an actuality. Every day I learned something new about others and something new about myself because I was exposed to such amazing people. Even though we were constantly around each other we found a way to make it work.
I’ll also miss the Louisiana culture and the people that I came in contact with during the trip. I am now more open minded about different walks of life and I have a better understanding of having an attachment to place. The most important lesson I learned was about resilience. In Rob Thibodeaux’s book, there is a line that continues to stand out in my mind…” We’ve cried enough, now let’s cut wood.” I was able to see the value of this line in action when I was in Louisiana.
Throughout the trip but especially now that its over, I realized how truly blessed I am in my life. I realized that I am healthy, I have food to eat, a family, friends, and a community and I would be selfish if I was not filled with gratitude for all that I already have. If I had to describe this community service experience in four words I have to say ~it sticks with you. During my time in Louisiana I literally took a thousand pictures but my only regret is that I didn’t take a thousand more.
~Destinee class member
After two weeks of waking up at 7 45 am sharp, preparing a bagged lunch, then slicing into sheet rock before 9 am, the quiet in my house and lack of rigid structure to my day seemed unsettling. But it gave me time to think about how lucky and blessed I am for everything that I have in my life. My house has never been flooded, and I have never had to rely on volunteers to help rebuild my bedroom. I have a loving family and friends who will stand by me in almost every choice I make in life. Working on those two homes in New Orleans and Dulac have helped me really appreciate the simpler things, especially those that I take for granted daily, that I have in my life.
When discussing this trip with family and friends, I explained the service aspects in the different locations, and the fun and exciting foods that I tried. It is much easier to discuss the lighter side of the service than to try to explain the emotional aspects that came from it.
-Lily, class member
So I’ve been home for a couple weeks now and we’re even getting ready to go back to school in a few days so I’ve had more than enough time for the trip to sink in and reflect on our time in Louisiana. First, I must say that although I was able to return to “normal” life relatively easily, parts of the trip definitely have stuck with me since we left. I’ve found myself think about the work we did and the state Louisiana is in today. Before the trip, my knowledge of wetland protection and hurricane awareness was very brief, but by actually going to Louisiana I have greatly enhanced my knowledge.
When family and friends have asked, I’ve tried to keep my response about the trip brief but I find it hard to condense into only one or two sentences simply because we did so much when we were there. Without (hopefully) boring those who asked, I’ve found that I’ve had to really explain what we did for them to even begin to understand the trip. From the people we met, the places we went, and the things we’ve done, it really has been quite hard to condense into only a few words.
Overall, I will not forget this trip anytime soon. I had never been on a service trip before so it was really unlike anything I’d ever done. From painting the house in New Orleans with Project Homecoming to the wetland protection in Grand Isle to finally mudding and taping Ms. Louis’ house in Dulac, we really did some memorable things. I even found myself mudding the holes in my basement wall when I got home, inspired to all the mudding we did in Dulac. I definitely learned a lot during my time in Louisiana, and the skills I’ve acquired and the knowledge I’ve gained will surely stick with me for a while.
If we had gone on this trip at any other time of the year, the readjustment would not have been so bizarre. It certainly wasn’t difficult to come home to snow and Christmas lights, but I’ve found myself thinking about how weird it has been to go directly from two weeks of seeing damage and working to rebuild to shopping for Christmas gifts and scrambling madly to clean our house in time for the holiday. I’m a little embarrassed about how quickly I have again taken for granted my home.
When we first got back, I was also surprised by how odd it felt not to have the whole group with me at all times—not necessarily good or bad, just strange. All of the jokes that we’ve been making for the past couple weeks are no longer funny to anyone else, and I don’t have to rush to shower in fear that Ran will use the week’s supply of hot water. Although it was definitely trying (I think for all of us) to be with the same people day-in and day-out for over two weeks, I’m looking forward to meting up again when we get back to school.
As we were warned, trying to explain the trip has been an exercise in futility. Everyone asks how New Orleans was, to which I have to explain that I also went to Grand Isle and Dulac, explain where those are and what we did there, what everything looked like. A few people who asked about the trip were honestly interested in the response, and had questions and some kind of related knowledge, but after a while I just came up with a standardized answer of some of the tasks I did on the worksites. Now when people ask about the trip, I respond that they are looking at a professional grouter-slash-drywall-mudder/taper/sander. Without fail, though, I always responded that I am glad that I went.
I am still bummed that we never cornrowed our hair (Kiana).
-Christine, class member
It’s been two and a half weeks since being in Louisiana and even though I have now adjusted again to my familiar life at home, I have a completely new perspective, which I will bring with me wherever I go. Louisiana changed my outlook on where I live, how I live, and most importantly, how I prioritize my day. One huge change that this trip had influenced was keeping up to date on my knowledge of the world and important current events. When I got home, I began reading newspapers more frequently and checking different online posts about what is going on throughout our country and around the world. During our various talks and lectures throughout our trip, I found myself feeling confused about what some of the people were talking about. This got me very upset and I think it is the lack of understanding that drove me to be more conscious about being up-to-date on daily news. I’m not sure why this hadn’t been an integral part of my life before this trip, however I am thankful that this experience has helped me become more aware of my surroundings.
Besides being more aware of the news, my experience in Louisiana gave me a huge sense of appreciation for my own life. After seeing what went on in the Lower Ninth Ward, hearing about Carolyn Parker’s story, and helping repair homes that were affected by natural disasters, I have learned to love my own home even more. I also have a tremendous amount of respect for the natives of Louisiana. When first hearing about the storm that hit just last week, the first thing that came to my mind was Louisiana and I prayed that everyone there be safe. After this trip, I am always going to have a place in my heart for Louisiana and by keeping up on the news I will know what they are going through and will pay close attention to the challenges they may face in the future.
It has been a great winter break and I am so happy I got to spend time learning, meeting new people, and helping to make a difference in the New Orleans and Dulac community.
-Harley, class member