New Orleans was amazing, again. I can't get away from how moving it is to work there to help the helpless rebuild their lives. 27 students and 6 CCC staff went with our group, and had a tremendous experience.
We stayed at a Habitat for Humanity shelter: Camp Hope, in the St. Bernard Parish. This shelter is an amazing facility; any of you who plan to go should look into staying there. It is clean, well-organized, has good food, abundant hot water for showers, and air-conditioned sleeping quarters. When you are doing really dirty work like house gutting, these accomodations allow you to work harder and be more effective.
This is Kat, a woman whose house we worked on. Her insurance company cancelled her policy without notice in June 2005, two months before her house flooded. All day she was combing through the pile of debris we were making in front of her house. I will long remember the tears in her eyes when I handed her a picture of her daughter at her Homecoming Formal that had been untouched by flood water.
This is the debris pile at lunch time. We had been working for a few hours at this point, but the pile was twice as large at the end of the day, and there was still quite a bit more for the next day. Try and imagine for a moment what it would look like if everything you owned was piled in the street in front of your house. And then all the sheetrock and insulation and carpeting was thrown on top of that. This pile topped out at around nine feet high and stretched along the whole front of her property. This was a modest house.
Here are some of the University of Portland students on their lunch break, talking with Kat.
Overall, it was a great experience. Next week we will be having a meeting to debrief from our trip. I am excited to hear how they are processing what they saw.