Sunday, October 7, 2007

New Orleans Renaissance: What You Can Do

Yesterday, my husband and I spent the day at a Habitat for Humanity site in New Orleans. (I pounded nails all day, and Harry installed roof joists. We had no previous experience - turns out, though, we're trainable!) It was at Habitat's "Musicians' Village" in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans.

The weather was hot and humid, and the labor was wicked exhausting, but I have to say that it was the high point of our trip.

We were there for an insurance convention. (NAPSLO) On Saturday morning, two busloads of insurance folks (and spouses, like me) showed up to wield circular saws and hammers, hoist plywood, staple Tyvek, etc.

We worked side by side with several of the people for whom the houses are being built. I worked next to a man and woman and their teenaged daughter -- their house in the Lower Ninth Ward was washed away when the levee burst. It was five days before the couple knew the whereabouts of their daughter.

A few rows of these houses have been completed. If you'd like to see the project we were working on, here's a link to the dedication, and the handing over of keys, to one person's new home: New Home Video

Also, here's a link to the Habitat for Humanity page about this particular project: Musicians' Village.

(It's an especially interesting project: they are constructing houses for displaced musicians, so the musicians can return to New Orleans.)

If you know anyone who's planning a trip to New Orleans (or would like to plan one) I hope you'll tell them about the volunteering opportunities through Habitat for Humanity.

During spring break and the summer, they have lots of volunteers. But at this time of the year, volunteering drops off. (And it was so hot and humid out there yesterday -- I can't imagine what summer is like!) Winters are mild in New Orleans, and it would be a great time to volunteer, if you can spare the time.

And, of course, donations are always welcome.

We were there for just one day. And lots of people volunteer for just one day. And it is astonishing what gets accomplished that way, over time! (My hat is off to those wonderful people who work there - gratis - for weeks at a time. Amazing. The young woman who led our crew is a year-long volunteer through AmeriCorps, which is like the Peace Corps but for projects here in America.)

The "before" photo is one I took in February of 2006. To see the rest of this set of pictures, click here: Jaquith post-Katrina photos. The "after" photo is part of Briebanofsky's photostream at

A friend of mine knows she can talk me into doing just about anything by saying, "But, Janis, you can write about it!" Volunteering for Habitat for Humanity is certainly worth your while...and, you can write about it!

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