Sunday, January 20, 2013

While The Journey May Be Over, The Service Still Continues

It has been a little over a week since I was digging in the sand of Ortley Beach alongside all of you. While the sore muscles have disappeared the memories that I made from those two days are still with me. I expect the same goes for all of you and your adventures in New Orleans.

While I cannot share those particular memories, I can say that over break I did make many memories from my own service.

I guess that is what this blog is really all about: recording our experiences to reflect and remember. It is safe to say that I cherish my whole Sandy Relief experience…especially those few days that I was working with Bonner.

Perhaps my favorite part of those couple of days was on the second day at Ortley when all of us were digging up this monster of a sand dune that had washed up against this small beach house. We were told that there was a “beautiful deck” underneath all of the sand, but it was hours before we even got the chance to see it. 

That single moment when a small piece of the deck surfaced and everyone gathered around to see it was definitely a moment to remember for me. To me it felt like we had conquered the impossible dune just by seeing that tiny piece of wood. I know that for many of us, including myself, it was aggravating shoveling one scoop of sand for more to just slide back into the cleared spot. For most of that day I felt like I was making no progress, but when I saw that deck, I finally saw progress.

Now I know that in the grand scheme of things we were just one group of students shoveling up one single backyard for that whole day, but we did leave our mark and help out that homeowner. I suppose that is how we all should really look at the whole Hurricane Sandy disaster; we should think that every little bit helps because every helping hand leads to progress. Little dents from everyone eventually add up.

However, there is still much work that needs to be done before New Jersey is up and running again. I know that some of the AmeriCorps members at Ortley said that they were going to be stationed there clear through February. But despite all of this, I am glad that I could help in any way that I could over Christmas Break.

I hope that all of you feel the same way with the service that you did in both New Jersey and down in New Orleans.

I look forward to seeing all of you tomorrow!

--Shayna Innocenti

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Seeing is Believing

From the first day of Bonner orientation, every upperclassman would always talk about how amazing their NOLA trip was and how much they loved this city. I always wondered, how could everyone speak so highly of this one city? A city that had supposedly been destroyed by a storm and still struggled 7 years later to come back to 100%. Now I understand why, and the real question becomes, how can you not love this city? New Orleans is exceptionally unique. Its diversity ranges from the desolate Lower Ninth Ward to the extravagant Garden District. The dull gray levees around the city to the lit up Superdome right in the middle.  Every section has its own significance and style, and it all exists within the Big Easy. The one commonality that seems to exist around the city is the spirit of the residents who live within it. Never have I meant more friendly and hospitable people. Whether it’s the kids playing in the Lower Ninth or people walking around the French Quarter, everyone seems to be interested to share their stories and hear yours. It’s no doubt to me that this unity has been one of the most essential factors in this city’s reemergence.

Learning from Katrina to Aid Sandy

The three days at the Jersey shore were really filled with unexpected surprises. From walking into backyards that had their own sand dunes to seeing houses shifted off of their foundations, it was shocking to see the destruction that only resided about an hour from home. But in contrast to what I’m seeing in New Orleans, the response to all the damage has been phenomenal. AmeriCorps, FEMA, and many other organizations around the country are continuing to send massive amounts of resources and manpower into towns that require the aid. The real question will be how long will this assistance last? Because if I’ve learned anything from this trip to NOLA, it is that after some time people start forgetting about the devastation of a storm, resources start dwindling, and the affected areas are left in need of help for a very long period of time (i.e. New Orleans is still in the process of rebuilding 7 years later). Hopefully, the country has learned from Katrina and will continue to support the efforts for Sandy Relief because the towns along the Jersey Shore and even up in New York will require the aid for some time to come.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

NOLA 2013

Now it is my third day here in New Orleans. So far it has been an amazing experience! In the last two days i have put up dry-wall and painted primer onto a wall. It was hard work but totally worth it when we met the home owner. She was so sweet and so thankful for all of our hardwork. Today I spent my day painting a ceiling. At first it was hard because the ceiling was slanted and much higher then my long roller could reach. I had to stand on my tiptoes and sometimes jump to get out all of the bubbles in the paint. That made Regina laugh and she kept making fun of me for being short. But in the end it was a great feeling to know that this short girl finished painting the ceiling (with the awesome help of Leslie of course!) 

The Big Difficult

           After our three-day service at the Shore, I have to admit I was physically exhausted. For the first two days, our group at Ortley Beach mainly shoveled sand and my whole body ached because of it. On the second day, we shoveled this huge pile of sand that was blown in someone's backyard for hours on end. The beach was literally in their backyard. It felt like it took forever to move all of that sand off their back porch so the owners could at least walk back there. By the end of the day, we finally got all of the sand off of the porch and it felt amazing to get that done. Even though the work was very strenuous, I felt so good after our work for Sandy and I was ready to continue our work at New Orleans.

            The ride down to NOLA was long and tedious and everyone was anxiously riding in the vans, excited for our arrival. When we finally got there, I think I speak for everyone when I say that we were all shocked. It has been seven years since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and, in some parts, houses are still ruined and abandoned. It truly was heartbreaking when we took the tour, especially when we went to the Lower Ninth Ward. I couldn't wait to begin our service and to help out as much as we could. 

           I have to admit that our first day of service for me was rough. I realized that I don't have many skills when it comes to building houses so I was given the job of patching. It was the most tedious thing that I had to do. It took me all day to patch up two small holes in the wall! Yet, when it was done, I felt so accomplished and relieved. The second day was a little easier since I was a little experienced and instead of holes that I had to patch up, I had to put drywall up. It took most of the day, but there was a big difference from the beginning of the day to the end and it was good to look at the wall and be able to say that I helped make it. So far on this trip, I am having a wonderful time and I can't wait to continue our service tomorrow.

-Ashleigh Amadeo 

Breaking Down and Building Up Hope

In Union Beach and throughout all of my Sandy work, I have been constantly breaking things down. I found myself completely ripping people’s life away as I saw and discarded damaged goods that simply can’t be replaced. I adore my job site and my site supervisors in Nola. While it was heard to demolish in Sandy, it comforts me that eventually, everything can and will be built up again. Every Bonner on my site has worked really hard, and I love showing the freshmen around the city.
Today, I met my homeowner- Ms. Loraine. We are mudding, sanding, priming, and texturing her walls this week. The hope I saw in her as she saw her house in the finishing stages was unreal. Her heart is so big and we could all tell her genuine personality as she told us about the struggle of finding a house after Katrina. She allowed four different homeowners to break the contract with her, allowing them to keep their house. Even though she was already in the process of closing on the properties, she said she understands that people want to hold onto the memories. This is the second time around rebuilding her house with SBP. Unfortunately, after three weeks of living there the first time round, she found out that she had contaminated drywall and has now been out of her home for another two years.
The Americorps members have been telling me a lot about their position and the program, and I can’t help but see myself living in New Orleans for 10 months after I graduate and having my own house to build. I absolutely love this city and the warm culture! It seems too good to be true to be able to live here. I guess I will have to see what happens. 

Entry 2

It is already day 2 in New Orleans and i can't even express how much i already love this city and how thankful I am to be here. This is truly an experience of a lifetime and I'm so thankful that I'm able to do it with my friends, great chaperons, and being involved in a worthwhile community service project. Just being around and experiencing the city of New Orleans is already one of my favorite things to do but I'm also glad that we are here making an impact in this great city. This city has given us such a great time and we're able to pay it back by helping with its recovery to its state since before Katrina.

Being here has really aloud me to learn about the long process of recovery from such a devastating thing like a hurricane. I must admit that even I didn't know the extent of the damage the city is still sustaining even seven years after the hurricane. I'm just glad that I'm able to make a difference even if it's in one persons life like Mrs. Rosemary who's house we're working on.