We finished our last day of service with Habitat for Humanity NOLA today. It was such an incredible experience, and we are all so grateful for the time that we spent with their Brush of Kindness program.
Today, we also spent some time in the Habitat for Humanity Musician’s Village in the Upper Ninth Ward today. We took a tour (impromptu) of the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music and got to see all the backstage areas and rooms where they operate their after school programs. After the tour, the guide asked us why we were here, in New Orleans. Honestly, none of us had any idea about what to say. We knew the obvious: we were here to volunteer. But we found it difficult to truly tell him anything about why we were motivated to go on this trip. It got all of us thinking…
Some of us wanted to come here simply as a resume booster, or as a vacation with a little bit of work. For others, we wanted to explore the long lasting after effects of a natural disaster. Some wanted to just have a different experience for reading break. Whatever the reason, the experiences we have had have changed and molded our beliefs about why we are here. One notion that came up was the difference between tourism and something immersive like this trip. As a tourist, you choose what you do and do not want to see. If you don’t want to go to a place with a “bad reputation” you can simply avoid it. Stay in your hotel or the surrounding upscale areas, and pretend it isn’t there. However, that is not an effective method to learn and understand the culture by which you are surrounded. One group member emphasized a desire to not exploit the communities in which they visit because there is a certain level of guilt associated with it. However, in an experience like ucalgarycares we get to really see the community in a holistic sense. You see the good and the bad, happy and sad, hopeful and disappointing. But through it all, you can learn so much about the community in which you live or work. It’s very much not a spectator sport here. You are not a bystander on this trip. Rather, you go beyond an observation to participate and become involved in the community. That is what makes this so special. You can learn and be impacted more meaningfully by an experience like this.
Tomorrow’s our last day in NOLA! We can’t believe it, but are excited for all of our activities we have planned. Talk to you soon!
– Spade Group, Building Community (Nancy, Nilou, Clara and Nolan)