Seattle Works

A blog that documents all things Seattle Works…and much much more!

Gulf Coast November 3, 2008

Filed under: Service Trips — seattleworks @ 5:52 pm
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Seattle Works recently sent its fifth (or sixth?) delegation of volunteers down to the Gulf Coast area to help with the continuing relief from Hurricane Katrina. It was an amazing trip…

Saturday, October 11: Eight eclectic and fearless Seattle Works volunteers left for New Orleans to volunteer with a group called Katrina Corps. After a day of travel, we spent Saturday evening getting to know our Katrina Corps hosts, Ray and Marshall, and went to a place called Bacchanal for an evening of wine and performances by New Orleans artists (blues, jazz, spoken word, etc). Sunday was devoted to getting the tourist-ish inclinations out of our systems, and we spent the day downtown: walking along the Mississippi, having beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde, watching some fantastic street performers, taking in the amazing architecture, buying souvenirs, and doing general sightseeing.

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Work started Monday morning — we spent most of our volunteer hours that week working on a school in the Bywater (Upper 9th) District. The school had been abandoned since Katrina, and was being converted into a community arts center. We moved furniture, painted, scraped paint and grime off the floor, moved carpet tiles, swept, mopped, installed ceiling tiles and fans, and generally did what we could to move the building toward being ready for opening day, November 1. The work portions of our days were tough, but satisfying, and our group bonded over blue paint, grime-covered floors, inside jokes, and hastily-devoured lunches.

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Marshall talked about how folks in New Orleans work hard and play hard… While the work we did on the school down there was the reason for our trip, we also took time to partake in culture and have FUN. Ray and Marshall were fantastic hosts, and took us to great spots in town we never would’ve found on our own. We had a fantastic dinner at Bennachin (a great West African restaurant), saw the Rebirth Brass Band (awesome show) at Preservation Hall, watched the third presidential debate at Miss Mae’s (one-dollar well drinks!), and had a crazy-fun evening eating crawdads and po’ boys at the Mother-in-Law Lounge (where we learned about Ernie K-Doe). We danced and drank and heard some fantastic music on Frenchman Street, center of New Orleans’ local music scene.

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DEBATE WATCHING AT MISS MAE’S

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PRESERVATION HALL

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CAFE DU MONDE

We also had some amazing food-for-thought moments. I’m going to cut and paste from the blog of Patrick, our amazing and fearless team leader:

After we left our project today, we took a tour of the Lower 9th. I obviously have been there before, seen it, done it…but please don’t think I’m playing the drama card when I say that I was distressed by what I saw. It’s been over 3 years. 3 YEARS! Why aren’t these people back in their homes??? What is preventing us from accomplishing here what we are able to accomplish in Iowa after a flood, or in California after a wildfire? Why does an organization like this have to go out and cut the grass at a particular residence just to keep the city of New Orleans from serving a lien notice on the property? How is that right? And more significantly, why are we allowing that to happen? We have forgotten what is happening down here. Not what DID happen. What IS happening. When was the last time you heard a non-anniversary report about the recovery efforts? People like us are still needed. Desperately. People like us still have to take this story back, and tell people in our home towns that things are still not right in New Orleans. But don’t take our word for it. Come down and see for yourselves.

Through the week, there were hilarious and fun moments, and difficult and poignant moments. But I think we all left feeling the need for more. More for the people of New Orleans. More for those whose lives were turned upside down by a storm more than three years ago, and who are still living in limbo. I encourage anybody who has the chance to take a trip to New Orleans to do it. See what’s going on down there now. You’ll feel compelled to get involved, I promise.

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Now for thank yous… Thank you to Jan for helping organize this trip. I know it’s a lot of work, but we are a better country for volunteer efforts like this, I’m convinced. Cheers to Seattle Works.

And thank you to an AWESOME team: Anna, Ashley, Beth, Bill, Erick, Kaitlin, Nia, Pam, Patrick, Ryan, & Scott. It was great getting to know all of you guys, and awesome working and playing hard, side by side with all of you, for the week.

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And last, but not least… Thanks to Marshall and Ray for taking care of us, showing us around, and giving us information and experiences to help us absorb the profound-ness of what we experienced that week. It’s changed the way I see the world. And you guys rock.