YES Teens Rebuild New Orleans
Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island
This April, twelve teens from the Long Island and Washington Ethical Societies, three adult advisors, and one FES (Future of Ethical Societies) member from the Northern Westchester Society traveled to New Orleans on a service trip to help rebuild homes that were damaged in Hurricane Katrina.
For five days members piled into a white van and drove to our two assigned houses. We worked with the St. Bernard Project and their AmeriCorps volunteers. One of the houses was not owned by anyone, but was being rebuilt to be offered as affordable housing. The larger house we worked on was owned by Teresa Ross, who suffered from contractor fraud after trying to rebuild her house after the hurricane. Her story was moving. After losing over $20,000 she started to work on the house herself. But the house kept getting broken into and people would steal the copper wire in the walls and other supplies. She decided the only way to keep it safe was to stay there herself. So she stayed, for a year, in a gutted house with no electricity or plumbing. When St. Bernard Project got her call, she was bumped to the top of the list. They gave her a trailer next to the house so she could be there on her property. She was there every day saying hello to us and thanking us. She gave the group a lot of motivation to work hard, knowing we weren't building just a house but a home.
When we weren't mudding (spackling), laying floors, or painting, we were exploring the city. We went to see the levees, in particular where they broke. Driving through the ninth ward really gave the group a taste of reality as we saw the poor conditions. Driving down bumpy streets, there was a disturbing pattern: house, house, empty lot with only a foundation, empty lot, weeds, house, and weeds. We went to the French Quarter and got a taste of the southern city. Everyone had a great time just walking and getting souvenirs. By the end of the day everyone was tired and sun burnt!
We stayed at Camp Restore, a volunteer camp run by a Lutheran church, with other teens also doing service work. We had to be the biggest group of vegetarians there!
Altogether, we had a great time. It truly was an experience to be remembered and enjoyed. We want to thank everyone who made this trip possible! It was a trip that really fit the definition of what Ethical Humanism is: helping others, no matter the difference or the distance. We hope to return next year!This was the 4th year that young Ethical Humanists have taken this trip, but the first year for many participants. Both Societies held fundraising events to help pay for the trip (a coffee house and a teen arts festival). The events were both so successful that we were able to make a nice donation to the St. Bernard Project. YES teens are getting ready to launch a massive fundraising campaign across the entire Ethical movement, with the goal to raise enough money to support a home being built in New Orleans. For more information on how you can get involved contact Tara Klein (Long Island Society) at kleintara[at]gmail.com or Susan Runner (Washington Society) at rungold7[at]gmail.com.