WORK IN PROGRESS
It is the fourth full day in New Orleans and I am sitting in the living room of our volunteer bunkhouse, chatting and laughing with eight other University of Calgary students that I hardly knew five days ago, although it seems like we have known each other for much longer. There are girls swapping clothes in the room to my right, and a group collaborating on what to make for dinner in the kitchen on the left. This volunteer trip has so far been an amazing experience in terms of bonding and growing with a diverse group of people.
Together, we have experienced fresh beignets, group photos in front of many monuments and walking tours through the glitz and glam of New Orleans. We have also spent many hours weeding organic lettuce crops and cleaning up the damage that a tornado can have on a bungalow. My wheel barrel and shovel skills have vastly improved, and I have learned how to position myself while weeding to minimize lower back discomfort. We have jumped around to different parts of the city each day, which has provided an amazing perspective about the dynamics and complexities of New Orleans.
The most impactful day for me so far has been going to Our School at Blair Grocery in the Lower 9th Ward, which is an urban garden run by the charismatic, intellectual and say-it-like-it-is Nat Turner. He is working to tackle the very complex challenge of bringing food justice to one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the States. It seems as though there are ongoing (and very large) roadblocks with what he does, but it is inspiring to see what can keep someone going if they have enough belief in what it is that they have committed to. Among the many experiences that affected me from this one day in the Lower 9th Ward, one sentence particularly stuck with me. Nat mentioned his mom always told him, “For those who are given much, much is expected.” I think that helping those in need, whether it be picking weeds for an afternoon or committing long term to an organization, is a social responsibility that I hope to further act on.
For me, this week is a work in progress. It is the beginning of friendships with my fellow ucalgarycares volunteers and the beginning of learning about this dynamic and amazing city. And this trip is hopefully the beginning of actively helping individuals, communities and cities that could use some support.