Seniors head to New Orleans for a week of rebuilding

By Qina Liu, senior

Although it has been eight years since Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is far from rebuilt.

Fifteen senior Park Scholars learned that when they travelled to New Orleans for a service trip in the lower 9th ward. From Jan. 12 to 19, the scholars lived and worked with Lower Nine, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing back the displaced residents of the 9th Ward into the area.

Senior Elizabeth Stoltz, who started her own non-profit, Food for Thought, said she thinks Lower Nine is a fantastic organization.

“I was really impressed that Lower Nine, as an organization, is not throwing money at the issue. They’re there from every day for long hours doing hard work,” Stoltz said.

Stoltz experienced that work firsthand while painting from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday to Friday.

“I’m not by any means experienced in construction work so I’m glad that Lower Nine worked with my abilities,” Stoltz said.

Other Park Scholars spent their week clearing an overgrown field, demolishing and rebuilding a roof, caulking and installing insulation into a ceiling, going on garbage runs as well as many other construction projects.

Laura Paul, executive director at Lower Nine, said she credits the rebuilding process to volunteers.

“Go to the city of New Orleans and go back to the French Quarter and find anyone who has been here since 2005 and ask them who is doing most of the work and they will tell you its volunteers,” Paul said.

Senior Zeke Spector, who has travelled to the 9th Ward in spring 2010 on a service trip with his Unitarian church, said he has seen the difference volunteers have made.

“I’ve seen more progress in the three years since I went down there since the five years after,” Spector said.

Still, both Stoltz and Spector agreed that the city has a long way to go.

Stoltz, who has never been to the Big Easy prior to the trip, said she appreciated being warned that the city wasn’t 100 percent rebuilt, even though it has been eight years since the storm.
“If I’ve gone in cold, I would have looked around and said, ‘It looks like this happened just a couple of months ago, or just last year,’” Stoltz said.

Meanwhile, Spector said that entering New Orleans feels like entering a third world country.

“You know, there’s still houses destroyed years after the hurricane, there’s still people displaced, there’s still tools that are not reopened, so why not go to New Orleans?” he said.

Spector plans to share some of the stories he collected by producing a radio documentary that will be aired on 92 WICB. The other 14 scholars will also be producing media pieces.

“We’re all here in the Park Scholar Program because of our interest in service so it was great for all of us to come together senior year eating, sleeping and working in the same environment,” Stoltz said.


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