Thursday, December 8, 2011

GOA Students Help Rebuild in New Orleans

The following update from the 6th annual Katrina Relief Mission was written by Adam Shapiro, Dean of Students.

December 8, 2011

As our 6th mission comes to a close this evening, I just wanted to give a short update about this group, what they've seen and of course what they've been able to accomplish. 

As I have said to the students time and time again, the beauty of this experience for me is that I've been able to see each and every one of the groups and they have all truly been unique. Mission 6 is not an exception by any stretch of the imagination. They've now completed two incredibly hard days of work with Habitat for Humanity where they assisted with siding, staircases, porches and insulation - trust me, that house looked a lot different this afternoon than it did yesterday morning. Of course, I can't leave out the fact that they have done all this work in some fairly cool weather. While the sun did come out midday today and heated the area up, our group persevered and worked tirelessly to get their jobs done. The one word that came to my mind as we left the site today was 'pride' - because our group exhibited it at every step of the way. They didn't just want to get the job done, they wanted to do it right. 

While we were on the bus on Tuesday afternoon I reminded the group that one of the challenges we faced was that we wanted to 'see' and 'help' while the community here in New Orleans works hard every day to move forward and rebuild their lives with an eye to the future. This message was really brought home in our meeting with Robert Green and subsequent stop at Trinity Lutheran Church - a place of worship for the lower 9th ward that was decimated in the storm.  Robert couldn't say enough about how he felt about our group, he wanted them to understand one key thing - the young generation, the generation raised to help others, is the reason he has hope for the future. He has seen so much loss in his life, yet he still holds his head up and gets up every morning ready to move forward. 

When Robert took us to the church, we were then able to meet with Kathy, a woman who has been instrumental in the rebuilding of the church and surrounding area. Her message was so simple, yet so profound. She told the group how she has spent her life working and donating for 'them' yet after the storm destroyed her house, she realized that for the first time in her life she was 'them' and needed help. At that point, as she told our group, she understood that all of the work we do to make the world better is not for 'them,' rather it is all for 'us' - we cannot exclude ourselves from the world, rather we need to all work together for the greater good - an incredibly valuable lesson learned while sitting in what will be a beautiful place for communal gathering, worship and prayer. 

All in all, this has been a wonderful mission, we've worked hard and seen a lot and we are all excited for our last dinner tonight at the Tulane Hillel followed by a real southern experience - Zydeco music at Rock n Bowl. 

Before I close, I do have to take a moment to give special thanks to my two hard working and amazing chaperones. As I watched both Mrs. Udell and Mrs. Trinker hang from 24 foot ladders today and work with the students to help them every step of the way, I understood, once again, how lucky I am to work with such incredible teachers and role-models. Both of them have given so much more than their time to this mission and it is with the highest level of praise and respect that I say thank you to them - this mission absolutely would not have been as successful without them.