Classes start tomorrow, but I’m actually spending my first week of the semester in New Orleans on a service immersion trip through Alpha Gamma Delta and the Association of Fraternal Leadership and Values. We are staying at Camp Restore, which was founded in 2006 following Hurricane Katrina, and the camp has partners throughout the community that we have been venturing out to serve. Yesterday, we visited an amazing community garden started because one woman had a vision for an undeveloped plot of land, and today we worked at the Arc of Greater New Orleans and sorted, among other items, more than 1675 pounds of Mardi Gras beads alongside local staff members. It was incredible to see how differences in abilities didn’t stop us from conquering a large task. We have also loved having the opportunity to connect with people from this community, as they have been so welcoming and so willing to share their stories with us.
Tonight we talked at length about how people in the local community might perceive groups coming from the outside to serve and what attitudes we as volunteers ought to have as we embrace differences in community and culture through this immersion. Serving without considering the interests and perspectives of the community can be harmful when it intends to be helpful, and as I thought more about that concept tonight, I found these photos online from post-Katrina. These simple signs say so much without using many words or being flashy.
I’m thankful for this experience and am glad to be challenged to be a more intentional and helpful servant and volunteer. We have an incredible group of women, and while I’m a facilitator for our curriculum, I’m especially enjoying working and learning alongside them through the service work and cultural immersion. I hope that I can help the community in New Orleans, not just “help” it, and I pray for grace if and when I do fall short of being truly helpful. One thing is for sure: the work toward recovery is not yet done, so there is still space for us to do something meaningful.
Something that made today great: Talking smart with Ms. Tina while we bagged up Mardi Gras beads this afternoon
Time I woke up: 7:35 am