Rebuilding New Orleans
YES Advisor at the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island
Sean Taft Morales
YES Advisor at the Washington Ethical Society
From April 17–23, a multi-generational, multi-geographical, and multi-faith group of Ethical Culturists and friends spent Spring Break in New Orleans, Louisiana to help rebuild homes that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
Members from the Washington Ethical Society have made the trip annually for several years, and this year they were joined by members from the Long Island Society, thanks to connections the teens had made with one another at the National YES Conference in Chicago in November. In addition, folks from the Interfaith Families Project in DC joined to make a total of six adults and 14 teens.
We spent five days working on two houses, under the instruction of the St. Bernard Project and their Americorps volunteers. During our time at headquarters the first morning, we presented the St. Bernard Project with a check which the DC groups fundraised through a benefit concert. Most of our group worked at Milton Johnson’s house in the Broadmoor neighborhood. We mudded/spackled and sanded the ceilings and hung drywall on almost the entire house. We were told that we worked very quickly and efficiently! Mr. Johnson was very appreciative.
The St. Bernard Project chose our group to visit one of their completed houses. Ronald and Paula Mott welcomed us into their beautiful home, where Mrs. Mott cooked for 40 people and Mr. Mott told us his family’s Katrina story. We had a great time eating delicious home-cooked gumbo, jambalaya, and rice and beans; hearing about the Mott's eight children and 20 grandchildren and their Katrina stories; and seeing what our work could become!
In addition to rebuilding the homes, we spent some time learning about and enjoying the city. We took a driving tour of the area directly adjacent to the levee that broke. We saw the levee (a long and relatively short concrete wall), the new “Brad Pitt houses,” the Superdome (where people were told to go immediately after Katrina), and the destruction that the hurricane left that has yet to be repaired over five years later. We spent a few evenings in the famous French Quarter, with its small streets, beautiful balconies, and thriving restaurant and music scene. We also spent some time at our lodgings, a volunteer camp run by a Lutheran church called Camp Restore. It was a great experience for the teens to be around people with different beliefs!
We had a great time stepping out of our comfort zones and working together to help an important cause. We hope the trip continues to grow next year! If you are interested in coming or helping to plan, please reach out to Kristin Hunter at kristinhunter[at]starpower.net.