It’s been a few days since we arrived back home in Calgary and between unpacking and the back-to-school chaos, I’ve barely had a chance to gather my thoughts and reflect on all the wonderful things that we were able to experience in New Orleans. From learning to grow sprouts in a greenhouse situated in the Lower Ninth Ward to sanding and painting the walls of a newly renovated home, our group of 25 managed to fit in quite a bit in just under a week.
Before heading to New Orleans, my views on some of the major issues that still plagued the city were mainly predicated on what I had seen on television or had heard through the grapevine. This trip not only allowed me to really open my eyes to the immediate necessity of proper food security and affordable housing in communities still struggling to cope, but it also made me aware of some of the longstanding issues of race and ethnicity and the role this plays in New Orleans. The main thing that I can take away from this trip is that not all issues are one-dimensional. Certain aspects need to be looked at in a different light in order to properly grasp the underlying problems and come to a solution. For example, in a previous post of mine I had briefly mentioned the great work that the Make it Right organization has done in the Lower Ninth Ward in terms of rebuilding new homes that are energy efficient. Lost in the fancy architecture and bright colors, I failed to see that there is still a lack of urgency to build roads, sidewalks, streetlights, etc. These are all essentials needed to help people feel safe and restore confidence in their community. Don’t get me wrong, I think the progress made so far by Make it Right is a great testament to the organization but these efforts would be for nothing if all you have in the end are a few houses with no infrastructure to support the overall growth of the community. Nevertheless, these issues along with many more are ongoing and I think through continued efforts of volunteers and advocates there is a glimmer of hope that some of these problems can be overcome.
As this will most likely be my last post, I just wanted to take this opportunity to show my appreciation and gratitude to my fellow Calgary Serves members. I want to thank you all for making this trip something to remember for years to come. You’re all smart, funny, and kindhearted individuals in your own unique way who showed me that 25 individuals who barely know one another can indeed co-exist and get along. I also want to say a special thank you to Erin, Paul, and Brittany for making this trip as comfortable as possible for us. I’m sure that managing such a large group of students eager to explore a foreign place was no easy feat but the three of you managed to pull it off without a hitch.
Lastly, to anyone who kept up with the NOLA 2012 blog posts, thanks for taking the time to read about our experiences. I hope they served as inspiration in some form or another and if not, thank you for tuning in anyway!