Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Final Day

March 2nd, 2012
It is sad going to work knowing this will be our final day working with Habitat and Catfish. But most of the siding is done and I got moved to doing something different today. I cut and installed supports and shelves in each closet in the house. It was fun getting to use some power tools and doing something on my own that I could see mostly finished minus a final coat of paint and the addition of a rod for hanging clothes. Catfish was patient with my many questions to try to make these shelves as perfect as possible for the future family who will be living in the house. We stuck around for an extra half hour trying to finish as much work as we could on the house. Although I was disappointed that I won't get to finish the house, I know it is in good hands and will be finished within the next few weeks for a deserving family. A huge part of me wishes I could stay to see the family move in after putting so much into the house.
After work we got to experience gospel mime ministry. This is very different than any form of worship I have ever experienced, but I loved it. It reminded me that all you have to do is trust God and anything is possible. Kind of like how we all trusted that He would help this week would go smoothly and He helped a group of strangers become a group of close friends who didn't want to leave this place or each other.

Scaffolding yet again

Mar 1st, 2012
Siding for another day. Stuck up in the scaffolding yet again. Luckily though we only had a few pieces left to put up on the side of the house. If I have learned anything from the past two days it is that patience is truly a virtue. It took a while for our measurements to be gotten and our boards to come up to us. But we had fun while we waited. The dream team finally finished the siding and caulked the whole side of the house as well. A lot of jokes were made all in good fun as we soaked up the sun (maybe even a little too much as most of us ended the week with some nice sunburns). After accidentally calling Catfish, Crawfish yesterday I was pretty embarrassed, but luckily it seems like he has accepted my mistake and was very patient with us when it came to our million questions about how to cut out siding around the window and how to begin our angled cuts. But speaking of crawfish, we got to spend some more time with JWB and meet his wife, Dagmar while going out to one of his favorite places for some crawfish and dinner.  Morgan
Feb 28th, 2012
While our first day with Habitat could have been smoother, it was a great day nonetheless. After a late start, Catfish quickly caught us up on what we would be doing this week. We would begin with putting up siding and caulking the seams once finished. I never knew siding would be such a difficult job. I knew how to use a hammer coming into the week, but hammering siding is a completely different story, especially when you are up on ladders and need to balance. But by the end of the day it got much easier and I had helped to finish the side of the house! After our long day of work we got to go into the city to experience the sounds of jazz spilling out into the street. The atmosphere of Frenchman Street was incredible and it is a spot I would love to visit again someday.  Morgan

Green Light

Feb 27th, 2012
Today we were supposed to work with Beacon of Hope on an exterior painting job, but unfortunately it is rainy so plans have changed. Instead we worked with Green Light, an organization founded by Andreas Hoffmann in hopes to off set the carbon footprint he created while on tour with his band. Green Light gives out CFL light bulbs in exchange for regular ones which can drastically save residents money as well as reduce the amount of carbon emitted because the lights run off less voltage. We visited 5 houses, getting to hear some of the home owners stories and changing their light bulbs. Changing light bulbs in light fixtures on a ceiling about 12 feet tall is no easy job. The shotgun style house was new to me with a living area in the front then the bedroom behind and then the kitchen and bathroom all in a line with high ceilings, but JWB had told us about this style just the day before. I got to hear the story of Iris and her family during Katrina and how she and her sister are finally reunited and living as neighbors in their old house. After the great injustices they had suffered I was glad to be able to help in any way possible.  Morgan

New Orleans Hospitality

Feb. 26th, 2012
I have already fallen in love with New Orleans. The feeling of community and love in this area is immense. The hospitality expressed by locals is absolutely unmatched by any place I have visited. I am inspired by how proud these people are of their city. I am intrigued by the vibrant colors I see everywhere I turn from the Mardi Gras beads hanging off trees, houses, and banisters to the color of the buildings themselves. The same cheerfulness is found in each person I have had the pleasure to meet so far. From the beyond patient cashier at Walmart who waited about a half hour with us to help us check out our 4 carts of groceries, to John Wilkes Booth who showed us a part of the city that may not always be remembered by all who visit, to the members of the church we visited. I have felt a part of this community from the moment I stepped off the plane and I only imagine that feeling will get stronger with each passing day.   Morgan

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Last day of work done, and looking at the house I realize I had a hand in a small part of all the work. I put up the lovely, leveled, impossible-to-get-a-nail-through siding. I caulked, I cut, I cleaned. It was a great feeling to see the finished product, but I found myself thinking more about the people I worked with. This trip has introduced me to so many amazing people. People who were patient with me lack of skill in the hammering department. People who were willing to go out on a limb, or rather a ladder, to help when there were setbacks. People who were willing to fetch files, pick up nails, and dance on the roof. I am grateful and I hope to remember the amazing people in NOLA, and see and keep in touch with the amazing people in the group. Juliet

Crawfish and Memories

After a long day's work, nothing could be better than going out to eat with JWB and his wife. After a lesson from JWB, I feel like I could tackle any delicious crawfish that comes my way! The photo albums he showed us after dinner also showed me that people can handle any problem that comes their way, but not without each other. It was so moving to hear about the people that offered up their time to help the victims of Katrina. I wish I could have met some of the "hippie" volunteers so I could thank them for getting John and his wife through the disaster, allowing me to meet two very amazing people. Juliet


Day two on the Habitat site, much better than day one. Crawfish, I mean, Catfish was much more patient to our many questions. Hammering was much easier than yesterday. Juliette found out that using the side of the hammer is easier than using the head. Thereby refuting centuries of proven hammer technique. Using "leveling tools" and "markings" is no longer becoming necessary. We can just eye it.
After today we can see that all our hard work is finally paying off. Working with the owner of the house to build her own home is a really cool feeling. One that I was hoping for going into this trip. David

NOLA Fever

It was wonderful getting a taste of what truly makes up New Orleans today. The pride in the culture is impeccable and infectious. While walking through the streets it's impossible not to get wrapped up in the music, colors, and smells all around. Yet through all of the commotion, there is a sense of peacefulness, joy, and homeliness. Here I am 1000 miles away from home, yet I feel comfortable and at peace. A remarkable atmosphere is created here. The members of the city know how great NOLA is and they want nothing more but to share it. Seeing this generosity, friendliness, and pure happiness is beautiful. Everything about this place is beautiful. After seeing all of this, it's hard to want to go to work when you could spend all day touring and being in town. But after thinking about it, there is nothing better than joining with this community to help redevelop it. The people make it easy to see why they want it fully restored to its magnificent beauty. I've caught the NOLA fever and I'm ready to be apart of the love.   Lauren

Stay with us a little while longer

We returned home late Saturday night filled with exciting stories, pictures and videos to share.  Stay with us so we can share the whole story with you.   L

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Today we actually got to talk in depth to Jeffery from the Community Center of St. Bernard Parish.  He joined us during our lunch break to tell us why he was in New Orleans and what the Center offered to the community.

Making a difference.

Even though the work has been exhausting, I already feel like I have made a difference.  Seeing the house with most of its siding and knowing that I helped gives me a feeling of accomplishment.  I wish I could be there to see the new owners reaction once their house is finished. -- Juliet

Faces of New Orleans

         Among streets filled with jazz, I have been blindingly dazzled by the people of New Orleans. Thank you Iris for sharing your home and family's experiences with a stranger like me. Despite the turmoil of Katrina, your house is absolutely beautiful and spirit is unbreakable. Thank you Kirk DePlantis for allowing me to watch you play your drums on Decatur St. Your Passion is contagious. Thank you Mark for drawing me the pictures of how the levees broke and divulging your home building knowledge. Precision is everything, especially when the livelihood of so many people depend on a few complex mounds of earth. Thank you John Wilkes Boothe for showing me the devastation of Katrina through your photographs, and telling me about the history of such a beautiful city. You are one of the most remarkable people I have ever met. I promise, I believe everything you told me. Iris, Kirk, Mark, and John, forever in my heart, you will stay. Along with the streets where you reside.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Halfway through!

We are halfway through our experience with Habitat and we have already accomplished great things.  The house is almost done with putting up siding and I hope to see the outside of the house finished before we leave. Coming into the week I was excited to work with Habitat, but unsure of what we were doing.  I was excited to hear that we were putting up siding because that is something I have never done before and I saw it was a challenge to overcome.  Now I know how tiring and difficult it truly is both physically and  mentally.  But seeing the future homeowner working along side of us is all the motivation I need to get back to work.  So far the experience has been exceptional and I can't wait to see what the next three days bring.

Monday, February 27, 2012

John Wilkes Booth
The tour of NOLA [by Jon Wilkes Booth] was very eye opening. However, it raised more questions than it answered.  It inspired me to not only help out with building houses, but is has also inspired me to encourage and build up the people down here.  They have such bright spirits and I'm going to try my best to learn as much about individual people and their stories.  Cory


Our first project was to be exterior painting with Beacon of Hope.  Due to the rain, half the team will be doing an alternate job with a partner called Green Light.
 http://www.greenlightneworleans.org/greenabout.html Students will be going to residents homes to replace light bulbs with energy efficient bulbs. The other half of the team is working with the Community Center of St. Bernard Parish sorting clothes and food.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Love at First Sight

New Orleans has not failed to provide an absolutely exciting adventure these past two days. It is an absolutely enchanting city. Until now, I did not believe in love at first sight. This city holds an irreplaceable culture, and feeling that has weathered unthinkable turmoil. Reading and hearing about New Orleans is a sore way to experience what truly exists here. The people, music, architecture, wildlife, and food are unique and characterize this area in a special way. They are gifts to this Southern part of Louisiana and hold the ends of heartstrings attached to Americans although it is merely a small corner of the country. I am overwhelmingly grateful and excited to experience everything that is here. I want to still feel the happiness that exudes from this city in my bones long after I leave. Krista

Eye Opening

Eye opening day in New Orleans. This city has a lot to offer. Its reputation is no where close to being an accurate representation of what it's all about. The people are welcoming, generous, and have amazing stories to tell. As John Wilkes Booth has shown us, there so much to learn (besides about colors like pinurple). First work day starts tomorrow...let's get at it. David

Friday, February 24, 2012

One moment at a time...

Waiting at the Airport

Hey everybody!
So I am going to piggy-back off of Melissa's post... kinda. I have been dragging this week and it has taken a few hours before our flight to realize why. I had been forcing myself to focus on school, thinking of the two exams I have after break. Now I realize why I was feeling so down, because I wasn't living in the moment. Now, a few hours before we embark, I am even thinking ahead to what I might expect. Going over what I have packed and if there is anything I could have possibly forgotten.
I need to stop.
I might not know what to expect, but I have to let myself be excited. So I am going into this trip with my mind open to all the possibilities of what might happen. I am done thinking ahead and am going to live in the present, and presently I will be trying to catch up on some sleep and enjoying the quiet peaceful campus. I am going to enjoy every moment of anticipation, in my own relaxed way.
Much love,

Just a few hours away

It is Friday night and I am just a few hours away from leaving for New Orleans. What am I doing? Homework. While I tried and tried to stay ahead of my work this week and get things accomplished, I still have a few assignments to turn in. I am so ready to be done and go on this trip. I can’t wait to go somewhere where I will have the chance to get out of my daily life and start to gain a new perspective on the lives of others. At school, I get so entrenched in my work and in they things that I feel as though I “have” to do, that sometimes I do not take enough time out of my day to think about the world around me.

I’ve been to the Gulf Coast to do Hurricane Katrina work before; I went in the fall of my senior year of high school. That trip, even though it was years ago, is still an experience that I consider to have had a major impact on my life. While some may say that I enjoyed my trip to Mississippi so much because it was the first time I was away from home and on my own, I think the real reason it had such an effect on me was because it was the first time I realized how good it felt to go somewhere new, learn about others, and through learning about them, learn how to help.

While working at a site on my first trip, a group of us found an old wooden chair in a pile of debris in the back yard. In the evenings after we worked on a house for an elderly woman called GiGi, we sanded the chair, painted it, and had everyone from our group put some finishing touches on it. At the end of the week, when GiGi came to see the progress we had made on her home, we unveiled our chair. Everyone was really proud of our creation—it definitely looked good—but what made the moment so special was when GiGi told us that we had restored one of her old dining room chairs and that she was so excited to have it back in her new home. Having lost almost everything, our little chair was more significant than we realized.

I don’t really know what I will encounter in New Orleans; I’m open to anything. Excited to go, I hope to spend the week meeting new people and gaining new experiences. I went on my first trip not knowing what to expect and I was blown away by the amount I learned and the change that seemed to come over me. I’ve gone on multiple mission trips since then, and I am sure this one will be just as meaningful. Melissa
We start our Habitat work here on Tuesday.   
Our housing for the week.   L

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Almost There

Ok guys, so I haven't been to New Orleans ever in my life so this is going to be an exciting new adventure for myself as well. When I used to think about going on these different mission trips, I often envisioned myself solving all of the problems in a weeks time. I know this sounds crazy now, but I really thought that I had all the answers for whatever problem the various people were facing. But then I realized on my first CCME trip last year to FL that I do not and should not have all the answers; I realized that it was the effort of the entire group, in solidarity with ourselves as well as the people we were working with, that made the most memorable impact. If we only connect with a few people while in New Orleans I'm sure that those few people will spread the word to others. Cory

Yarrow by Andrea Gibson

The other day I was reading through this poem book I have and I came across this one that's one of my favorites. The author is talking about New Orleans so I thought I'd share it with you all!  Krista

We packed our lives into the back of your truck
and drove two thousand miles back to the only home you’d ever known.
On the bayou you ate crawfish.
I wished I had never become a vegetarian.
Here, whatever you came carrying fell to the ground like Creole swamp rain.
Uptown you could watch the jazz notes float from porch swings to sidewalks of little girls playing jump rope and hopscotch,
to old women skipping rocks across the gulf of the Mississippi like heartbeats they forgot they had, while mid-city trombones wrote love poems in lonely men’s ears.
For a year we were gardeners.
“No, Andrea, yarrow doesn’t grow here,
imagine a womb full of water,
plant like you would plant a daughter,
name her Iris, Rose, Magnolia, and Gardenia.”
You could hold the soil between your fingers and smell gumbo and harmonicas.
Could smell po-boys and cathedrals on the same block.
“What do ya mean, you don’t talk to strangers?
Come inside and see a picture of my son, he raises hell, but he’s a good one…”
Iris, Rose, Magnolia, Gardenia,
when I heard of Katrina I thought, “The flowers, save the flowers…”
I never thought for a second we wouldn’t save the people


The NOLA 2012 Team is excited as we get ready to head to New Orleans on Saturday.  We've started to blog in anticipation of the trip and intend to keep you posted as we encounter each new experience. L

The Team
Cory, Linda, Lauren G, Melissa, Juliet, Morgan, David, Nien, Lauren P, Neil, Jim, Krista and Katie. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hurricane Katrina Relief Experience:

SIX years after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the devastation is still apparent.  As if one disaster was not enough, in 2010 the BP Gulf Oil Spill hit the area as well, causing further environmental distress on an area that was in the midst of rebuilding.  However, despite the many challenges New Orleans is facing, the spirit of the people has not left. Join our students as they work with Habitat for Humanity and other community based organization to assist in the rebuilding effort of New Orleans.  Along the way, students will be indulging in the cuisine, music, people, and culture of the area that has weathered the tremendous storm and environmental atrocities.

Educational Resources:
St. Bernard Parish Website: http://www.sbpg.net/
Habitat for Humanity: http://habitat-nola.org/
Beacon of Hope Resource Center: http://www.beaconofhopenola.org/
Community Center of St. Bernard Parish: http://www.ccstb.org/

*This blog is sponsored by Spiritan Campus Ministry at Duquesne University. For more information on our mission please visit http://www.duq.edu/campus-ministry/