Over Christmas break, a group of students from [nlcf] took the initiative to continue serving a community devastated by hurricane Katrina. Over 40 students stayed for a week to support the efforts already happening in the trenches and added to a camps ability to house more volunteers. Deirdre Hunter (PhD candidate in Aerospace and Ocean Engineering at Virginia Tech) shares from her personal experience.
After my trip to New Orleans this past January, two of the greatest impacts on me were Hope and Love. But I think that sometimes they are not always so clearly lived out in our daily lives. These emotions impacted me because the place we stayed is called Camp Hope and the project we worked on is called Project Love. Over the course of the week I began to attach a deeper meaning to these names. I started to see the hope that we were bringing to the camp and the administrators of the camp and then in turn to St. Bernard Parish.
The week we were there broke—I should say smash since it almost doubled—the previous record for the number of volunteers to stay at the camp at one time. The volunteers from [nlcf] really made it possible for the camp to accommodate the 510 volunteers. We had people step up to work in the kitchen most of the week, starting with the 4 am breakfast shift. We did many work projects that contributed to increase the functionality of the camp including general cleaning, running a drainage pipe to collect the rain water from the roof, putting together
a personal protective equipment storage shed, a cleaning supplies room and a give-take clothing room. We also implemented a system to better organize the recycling of plastic and aluminum, built two brick walk ways, revamped the vegetable garden, built a tool shed and sanded and painted donated bunk beds. We also went off site one day and in teams of 10 where we gutted several residences. This experience really put us in the shoes of those that lost everything, and we saw their dire need for help in the cleaning and rebuilding process. Gutting and rebuilding just one house is a monstrous and costly task.
The other thing that struck me while I was there is that need crosses demographic boundaries. Everyone needs our help to some extent and working on one home in a neighborhood brings hope to all of the neighbors. It is not just houses or the camp that we are rebuilding, we are contributing to the rebuilding of a community. This is where love resonated the most; every task that we were involved with made someone feel not forgotten about or pushed aside and gave them hope for a better future.
Deirdre is organizing a return trip back to New Orleans this spring break (March 3rd – 11th) with many repeat volunteers. Please keep them in your prayers. Check back for that update.