Halfway Points and Approaching the End
Day 5 marked the halfway point for us on this trip. I’m not sure how many of us were actually aware of that fact, but it’s interesting to reflect upon. Time has been such a weird concept as we have been constantly busy doing different things with our time here. What was really unique about Day 5, though, was that we got to experience a different work site and service provided by SBP. And although tiring, we experienced an incredibly satisfying day of completely transforming (but actually destroying) a house. Days 6 and 7 brought about different experiences too, as we performed a different type of service by serving Thanksgiving dinner to those less fortunate and saw the end result of our work started at the beginning of the week. Along with these experiences were thoughtful discussions, interactions, and reflections, all contributing to the holistic take-aways for us. It was a satisfyingly full three days. Below are the snapshots of our days, followed by two reflections from some of our trip participants.
Snapshots! Days 5, 6, & 7
- Work site life! Got to work at a different site today and do demolition because of the weather – hard work but very satisfying! (Check out #sbpstmatthewscircle on social media sites to see the progress!)
- Group reflection! – realization that this is a special group of people
- Excursion to Frenchmen Street! – fantastic live music
Day 6 (Thanksgiving Day!):
- Early rise to go and see the Brad Pitt Make It Right Foundation houses, as well as the Levee Breach Museum – more great insight to the devastation of Katrina and what exacerbated the aftermath
- Served Thanksgiving dinner to those who didn’t have a place to go at the Convention Center – humbling and joyful experience for all involved!
- Back to the French Quarter to watch the Bayoh Classic parade and explore one last time
- Rock ‘n’ Bowl! Bowling, live Zydeco music, dancing, and food – great night and experience!
- Last day on the work site, and back at Baccich Street where we started! We were able to finish the first coat of paint, making the house look completely different than when we started. We also had the opportunity to hear from Miss Pamela, a current homeowner waiting for her home to be completed by SBP – very encouraging and moving experience for us to hear from her!
- Celebration in the Oaks at City Park – one of the largest Christmas light displays in Lousiana!
These three days held a range of experiences and emotions for us – from the extreme satisfaction of hardwork doing demolition, to the extreme thankfulness we felt during our time at the Convention Center, to the extreme compassion felt upon hearing Miss Pamela share her story with us. Below are two reflections by trip participants Melody Sonnemann and Luis Felipe Tomazini.
A Lesson on Thankfulness – Melody’s Reflection
Endings are always sad. We hate to see experiences we enjoyed and cherished come to a close, and the thought of returning to campus with piles of finals work awaiting us is not the best thing to look forward to. However, endings can also be a time of reflection, a time to look back and discover how blessed we all our when looking at the situations we’ve encountered. This week has held a lot of firsts for me: I learned how to use a crowbar, I tried a beignet, and I danced to live music in the famous French Quarter of New Orleans. So much more importantly, however, is my realization of the luck that life has given me. Today, an owner of a home that was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina came to talk to us at our worksite. Her name was Miss Pamela, and she has a 13 year old daughter that was two years old when the storm hit. They’ve moved seven times in the past ten years, been victim to $68,000 worth of contractor fraud, and had drug users squatting in their house while they couldn’t live in it. However, the St. Bernard Project has started work on their home and hope to be completed by Christmas.
Stories like Miss Pamela’s are heartbreaking, and terribly too common. She became emotional when telling us how much our service with SBP meant to her and other people whose lives were torn apart by Katrina. I have always had the same house that I can call home and while I knew this made me lucky, I had never understood just how substantial that blessing was. Being in New Orleans over my Thanksgiving Break has brought me to be so much more thankful for the things we all take for granted. I now understand just how much physical labor it takes to make a house suitable to be a home, and what home means to me: being safe, comfortable, and loved. New Orleans and this Thanksgiving Break will always hold a special place in my heart for the things that I have learned, seen, heard, experienced, and felt, and the people that were by my side along the way. 4955 Baccich Street will make an amazing home to a very deserving family one day soon, and this Thanksgiving I am overwhelmingly thankful to have played a small role in it along the way.
New Experiences – Luis Felipe’s Reflection
We went to Rock ‘n’ Bowl on Thanksgiving night. There, we had the opportunity to enjoy many aspects of the New Orleans culture – from the food to the music. While we were bowling, we were able to enjoy an incredible dinner of jambalaya and turkey and andouille sausage gumbo. It was an atypical Thanksgiving dinner, but we were able to try two local, iconic dishes. After that, we danced. There was live music, played by a local zydeco band. We all showed off our special dance moves and had an amazing night!