New Orleans Volunteer Work - 8/26/06
We were back in again this past Saturday the 26th in a new location gutting a different house. This area sat further North closer to the lake, and you can see further devastation spread throughout. Despite this, there were a few scattered families in their homes, and others doing some work in hopes of a return.
14 of us trekked in for the job and met up with Emily, an amazing young woman who coordinates local volunteer efforts. She was remarkable in her dedication, knowledge, positive spirit, ability to lovingly direct our work, and level of the respect that she has for the victims. As a recent college graduate who studied biology, she now dedicates all of her time to New Orleans volunteer efforts. As I learn more about her and the details of the program she manages, I will bring more to you.
During my other visits I was able to work alongside those that we were helping. This time around they were absent,living in Houston, and a family member showed up briefly just to share some information. Because of Emily's talk of respect - not peering through their garbage, not revealing their name, address, or story, making efforts to connect with their neighbors if they were around, being very sensitive about the photographs taken - I felt a greater reverence to their space and their story. It was probably the most important lesson that I walked out of there with that day.
I also learned of Emily's challenges in communicating with people who need help. She works with two other young women in taking calls and arranging the work that needs to be done. At times she said they are more of a suicide and child abuse resource hotline than anything else. Some people are in dire need of emotional support, and have exhausted their cries. Emily's reassurances that they will get the help become their stable ground and hope. I couldn't get over how overwhelming that must be for her and the families she is working with.
Keeping all of these things in mind and heart, our team did great work pulling apart the insides of the house. When we entered around 8 AM or so there were about 10 empty rooms with mold covered walls. After removing the light fixtures, molding and carpeting, smashing the electrical covers and lightswitches, removing all cabinets, sinks, counters in the kitchens and bathrooms, the wall removal began. Believe it or not, we got them all down and out, and removed all insulation as well. A terrential downpouring of rain didn't stop us from getting the debris out either. I can't tell you what a welcomed relief it was to have all of the sweaty grime washed from my body. There was still some work to be done when we stopped around 2:30, but overall the biggest parts of gutting are complete. This says so much about the efforts of Emily and everyone there. What an amazing team to work with!
Our next visit is scheduled on September 23. I'm not sure if we will return to the same house before starting another, but I do look forward to it either way. It is incredibly heart warming and fulfilling to work with others as one to help the distressed feel a sense of hope, encouragement and confidence again.