New Orleans, day five

We were assigned to two different jobs today, on our service trip to New Orleans. One crew went to work at Rev. Josie’s food pantry, bagging groceries for people in need to pick up. The second crew went to work for Growing Home; I was part of the second group.

Growing Home is a non-profit agency that helps people claim vacant houses next door to them. According to their Web site: “Buy the lot next door, beautify it, and we’ll deduct money off the purchase price. The Growing Home program of New Orleans would like to help. Through Growing Home you can receive up to a $10,000 discount off the cost of a qualifying Lot Next Door for landscaping improvements that you make to the property.”

We went to the house of a Mrs. Washington, who was improving the lot next to hers with the help of Growing Home. Abigail, a landscape architect who works with Growing Home, had designed some nice plantings, and we began digging out plots for the plantings. After we had been working for about two and a half hours, a thunderstorm moved in, and after waiting half an hour we decided to take our lunch break. It just poured buckets of rain, maybe three inches in an hour. When the rain finally stopped, all the areas we had dug out were filled with water.

We figured out a way to keep working, which meant getting incredibly dirty. (Some of our crew took pictures of us at the end of the work day, and I will try to post some of them here eventually so you can see just how dirty we were.) Abigail had to get a truck load of soil for us, then some drainage gravel, and by the time moving the dirt and gravel it was 5:30 and past time to knock off work. We promised her we’d go back tomorrow morning for a few hours to finish the last remaining plantings.

Unfortunately, Rev. Josie’s food pantry had so many volunteers that they only had three hours of work for our other crew. They came back here and basically had nothing to do, which was disheartening. We’re going to have a meeting tonight to see if we can figure out a way to become more effective.

Next post in the trip diary.

3 thoughts on “New Orleans, day five

  1. Jean

    Perhaps working closer to home might be more effective? Certainly New Orleans has much work to be done, but isn’t there work to be done in California? Or, perhaps, the beleagured Midwest?

    I say this as someone who lives in a state that isn’t blessed with volunteers — our crises are not acute (no hurricanes here) but rather chronic (unemployment, illiteracy, drugs, teenage pregnancy, etc etc). Not so “sexy” but still in need of help from those who care. Consider Indiana, those who wish to help. We need you.

  2. Dan

    Jean — That’s exactly what we’ve been talking about while we’re here. There is tremendous need in the Bay area, where we come from — especially considering the fiscal crisis in state government, so that people who are already vulnerable are dealing with all kinds of cutbacks (e.g., education, infrastructure, etc.).

    At the same time, when you’re down here, you see how bad it really is. The people with money have been able to rebuild. But a section of the city like the Lower Ninth Ward has been decimated — almost literally decimated, since about one in ten houses are reoccupied now, five years after Katrina hit.

    So I think it’s a both-and situation: work at home, and also do what you can to fix up after immediate crises.

  3. Amy

    almost literally decimated, since about one in ten houses are reoccupied now

    So you actually mean “decimate” in the sense Stephen Jay Gould suggests (Wonderful Life, 47, according to Wikipedia): destruction of not one out of ten, but nine out of ten. Chilling.

    You couldn’t know when you first proposed this trip just how badly New Orleans would need help, but now, with a second disaster and little prospect of getting any more help than it has with Katrina, it’s all the more important that you’re there.

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