New Orleans Service Mission 2016 Updates

Daily Recaps

List of 4 items.

  • Day 1

    Today was a very eventful day!!! Our day started bright and early at 7 AM and was filled with so much excitement! After a three-hour, non-eventful flight, we finally landed in New Orleans. Our trip started with a visit to a plantation museum which allowed us to gain a new perspective on a topic that many of us are currently studying in history class: slavery. Following the plantation, we took a bus tour of the Lower Ninth Ward lead by a man named Robert. Robert has been leading GOA groups on tours of the Lower Ninth Ward for many years. In fact, he greeted us wearing his GOA hat! He also informed us that he hung a mezuzah given to him by our school on his door post. The tour of the Lower Ninth Ward was extremely emotional for many of us. It was shocking and humbling to see how the Lower Ninth Ward, one of the areas most effected by Hurricane Katrina, is still repairing to this day. However, it is important to note that the hurricane is not what embodies the people of New Orleans. After a short amount of time, it was clear to see that hope, positivity and community can easily be found throughout the city. We went to the Lower Ninth Ward Museum and met a young boy named Jeffrey who embodied these values. When I came across Jeffrey within the museum, he greeted me with a huge hug and began to ask me all about my life as he proceeded to braid my hair. I learned more about him and his family and was truly humbled by his positivity, kindness and strength. By the end of our time at the museum, most of the group was found singing songs with Jeffrey with their hair either braided or put in a bun by him. Jeffrey's genuine happiness to be alive is the exact spirit that the city of New Orleans carries. Following the museum, we went to a local conservative synagogue, ate dinner, and participated in an engaging text study with others teens from the area. We then went out for beignets-- wow so tasty!!! The day was completed with a fun bowling activity. Even after a short amount of time, New Orleans has made a lasting impact on us all. We are anxiously awaiting wake up tomorrow morning to start our volunteer work in this beautiful city. 
    Last year, a man named Robert Green spoke to the high school about his experience in Hurricane Katrina. He watched helplessly as his granddaughter and mother were swept up by the waves, never to be seen again. As Sarah discussed Jeffrey as a symbol for the New Orleans optimism, Robert embodies the continued strength and bravery in the face of pain and devastation. A poignant moment was when we passed the street corner where his mother and daughter died. Robert said "I pass by this streetcorner everyday and I never cried once. Because this is my home." Robert's hometown in the Lower 9th Ward is still destroyed; there are empty, overgrown plots of land in lieu of homes. Katrina's looming precense is still felt in his neighborhood, in the local high school and the entire city. Robert is another face of optimism and faith for New Orleans.  I hope that Robert continues to inspire us as our trip continues.
  • Day 2

    Yesterday was full of meaningful and fun experiences. The day began by visiting with the students of Myrtle C. Thibodeaux Elementary School. We went to their classes, helped them with their work, and hung out with them. Visiting this school was an extremely humbling experience. Even with all of the challenges this community has been faced with, they continue to be a happy, spirited, tight-knit community.

    After we went to the school for a few hours and ate lunch, we went to ARC. ARC is an organization that employs adults with special needs, and simultaneously helps the environment. Mardi Gras is a huge parade celebrated in New Orleans every year, and thousands upon thousands of pounds of beads thrown in the parade are thrown out after each parade. ARC asks people to donate their used Mardi Gras beads, and the special-needs adults sort the beads by category so that they can be resold. The ARC building not only employed special-needs people to sort beads, but it is also maintained by adults with special needs. Yesterday we helped sort the Mardi Gras beads, and seeing the whole organization running was a really cool experience.

    Before dinner, Julia gave a really moving Dvar Torah. She told a story about a girl who was throwing a bunch of washed up starfish back in to the ocean. A man came up to her and told her that she could never get all the starfish back in the ocean, and as she threw another one back in, she told him that at least she is making a difference for that starfish. Later on we talked about how this connects to us as volunteers. It is really easy to get overwhelmed with everything that has to be fixed with New Orleans, as well as around the world, but we have to keep in mind that volunteering does make a difference. Even if we aren't fixing all of the problems around us, at least we are making an impact on the lives of the people in these communities.

    We ended the day with dinner at the Kosher Cajun deli, which was delicious! This was a great end to our packed and meaningful day.

  • Day 3

    We had a long day today, spending 8 hours working on a house with Habitat for Humanity. When completed, it will house young adults who have recently graduated out of the foster care program while they transition into adulthood. In order to prepare the house, we painted the walls and doors, sanded the porch, cleaned the yard, and swept up dust inside, among many other tasks. After a much needed shower and some rest at the hotel, we went out to dinner at Casablanca, a kosher restaurant for middle eastern cuisine, where we met up with alumnus Matthew Blum, the brother of one of this year's participants. After dinner, we headed to Preservation Hall for a live jazz concert by the Preservation Hall All Stars. We then walked down Bourbon Street to stop briefly for souvenirs. Finally, we headed back to the hotel to pack and get a night's rest before the last day of this year's NOLA Service Trip.

  • Day 4

    Today began bright and early at 6:40 AM. At 7:30, we left the hotel to go build a house at 1909 Monroe St. Unlike yesterday's house, this house had barely been started. When we arrived, all that stood was a frame. When we left, there were a few more boards attached to that frame. But it's a start! Because we came and worked there, the family will be able to move in sooner. And that's the goal, not to complete the task, but to help it along the way. We will miss NO/LA, the people we've helped, and the people who have taught us so much. Excited to be home, but sad to leave.     
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NOLA 2016 Photos

11th Annual NOLA Service Mission