March 30, 2007
Jeremy Harrigan journal entry
We departed from Ohio University around 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon and arrived in New Orleans about 16 hours later -- 8 a.m. on Sunday. We volunteered with Relief Spark, a non-profit organization that began post-Hurricane Katrina.
On Monday we went on a "Disaster Tour" and saw all areas of the city -- places that were affected by the hurricane and places that were not. We learned about aspects of the city that are now forgotten about by most of the country. This was an eye-opening experience for me and the others.
One area we visited was the New Orleans City Park, which is located in the center of the city. The park itself was submersed under approximately eight feet of water. Prior to the storm, it was a great location for families. The park encompasses 1,300 acres of land and has a wide range of activities such as sporting and recreational activities, attractions for children, and a beautiful natural habitat. However, after the storm, much of the equipment needed for the park's upkeep was destroyed and has yet to be replaced due to a lack of money and staff. Initially, we were just passing through, but as we began to see all the work that needs to be accomplished, we thought it would be a good idea to start picking up the garbage and litter that was scattered all throughout the children's playground areas.
Later that evening, we visited with a family who has been severely affected by the storm. Relief Spark has adopted this family, along with several others, and they provide them with some basic necessities that the families may not otherwise be able to obtain.
On Tuesday, we began gutting a house in the 9th Ward that belonged to an elderly disabled man at 11 a.m. The house had previously been worked on by a group of volunteers from Wake Forest, but the job was only about 15 percent complete. We wrapped up work around 6 p.m. that day.
Wednesday, we visited a nursing home where we took some of the residents on a nature walk as well as ate lunch with them; we were there from 10 a.m. till 12:30 p.m. This was a great experience because we had the opportunity to listen and learn from the residents about the past as well as how they personally dealt with the storm. Later Wednesday afternoon (around 2 p.m.), we returned to the house that we began gutting on Tuesday to do more work on it. We wrapped up our day around 6 p.m.
Thursday, we were contacted by ARNO (Animal Rescue New Orleans) and asked if we could volunteer to help out around the animal shelter. This shelter was set up after the storm and is critically understaffed and relies heavily on volunteers from several organizations to help out each week to meet the needs of the animals. The animals are very well cared for by the shelter and the work they do is amazing despite the limited number of staff. We worked from 10 a.m. till 3 p.m. at the shelter. At 3:30 p.m. Thursday, six of our volunteers accompanied our AmeriCorp leader to the community center where they tutored some local people who are attempting to earn their GED.
On Friday, we returned to the house to finish the gutting job we began earlier in the week. We really wanted to finish the house for the gentleman, so we all worked quickly and efficiently in order to get the job completed by around 2 p.m. that day. Finishing the house was rewarding because as a group, we could visibly see the work we had accomplished throughout the week.
Saturday afternoon, we accompanied the family that we visited earlier in the week to the New Orleans City Park where we rode the rides and simply had a fun afternoon with the family. We departed from New Orleans at 5 p.m. Saturday afternoon and arrived back in Athens on Sunday at 10 a.m.
The trip was a great experience for everyone because we were given the opportunity to see first hand the devastation that is still present 18 months after Katrina. It seems the country has forgotten about all the people down there that are still in such desperate need of help. The only way to fix the numerous problems that exist in New Orleans and the surrounding areas are through national efforts to recover, rebuild and heal the city.