Friday, March 28, 2008

In the "A"

Here is another picture of me and some of my we are showing off our "A"

From left to right:

Kate, 18, Maryland
Deirdre (Dee), 22, New York
Me! (22, New Jersey, in case you were wondering!)
Jodie, 23, Illinois
Erica, 23, Tennessee
Cassie, 19, Michigan


Here is a picture of me and some of my teammates! From left to right:

Kate,18, Maryland
Jodie, 23, Illinois
Deirdre, 22, New York

This picture was taken while we were volunteering at the NBA All-Star weekend down in New Orleans. We spent the day down in the Holy Cross district in the Lower Ninth Ward...perhaps the hardest hit area in the city. We helped paint houses and also helped assist in running the event and manage all the volunteers. We even got to work with Lebron James and Jason Kidd! I am not a basketball fan but I have been told that are a pretty big deal...haha.

I must say though, the NBA volunteer event, which was a city wide ordeal, actually left a bad taste in my mouth. It was nothing but a huge publicity stunt and very little work actually got done. The hot shot basketball players showed up for all of 30 minutes and didn't even put a dent in the work that needed to be done. Lebron James took 30 minutes to scrape paint off of a window that I could have done in 5 minutes. They spent most of their time on camera talking about how much the NBA cares about New Orleans and how glad they are that they can be here helping. It left me feeling angry and frustrated by the whole event. It also left me with little hope for the city of New Orleans. I fear that the rebuilding of the city has become too much of a pop-culture cause and in effect, little work actually gets done as people are too busy patting themselves on the back for menial contributions. Okay, I know I am being cynical but it just felt frustrating to see such a huge and powerful organization such as the NBA but on such a front for their efforts. It felt like the NBA was there more for good press than to actually help the people of New Orleans.

New assignment!

Just got my new assignment for Phase 3 of NCCC! Fort Pierce, FL here we come! We will be arriving in FL on April 17th to install hurricane shutters for low income families. I am lukewarm on the project, but I am keeping an open mind and trying not to make any judgments before getting there. I think my feelings stem more from the fact that I am sad to leave the Gulf Coast as I have really begun to fall in love with the culture down here. Alas, this is the nature of NCCC and it is time to move on!

I can't believe I am already moving onto my third project!!! It feels like just yesterday I was arriving at Fort McClellan, being issued my AmeriCorps uniform and steel toed boots, anxiously awaiting and anticipating all that was ahead...and now, now I am in the thick of it, wishing it would all slow down while trying to experience everything at the same time.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Back in the Bay

I can hardly keep track of my own life right now, so I can hardly expect those reading this to place me on the map. I am now back in Bay St. Louis, MS...the original project that I left to go help out with disaster relief in Tennessee. I am happy to be back, but still in a period of readjusting.

My experience in Tennesse taught me much more than I had expected. I went in there hoping to learn more about being a first responder and disaster relief overall, but ended up learning a lot about a part of America and a sector of American life that I had previously known little about.

If you think that you have been in the 'middle of nowhere' I challenge you to 30 days in Macon County, Tennessee. I have never felt so far out of my comfort zone nor so far away from my beliefs. The religious prescence was overwhelming at times and certainly the definitive characteristic of the region. I am happy to elaborate if anyone is curious, but I will leave it by saying that I worry more about the wealthy, white, homeschooled, isolated children I met in Tennessee than I do about my poor, Mexican-American, urban children I taught in California.

In terms of the overall disaster relief, the work was not as back breaking as I thought, but shocking nonetheless. The region has a long ways to go and I have little confidence that it will moving along at any rapid pace. The area hit was so poor they simply do not have the resources for relief. Additionally, the people in the area are such self-sufficient, rural farmers that they do not welcome help nor want to accept the fact that they need the help.

It was weird to be in the middle of a disaster area yet whenever I talked to my family or friends they had no idea that anything was still going on there. It goes to show you how much goes on outside our lives that we have no idea about. Once a story falls off the national media radar, it might as well not exist anymore. It made me wonder about every other small town in America and all over the world that was suffering and no one even knows about it.

All in all, I am very happy with my decision to leave my team and work in Tennessee for the month. It is easy to get caught up in NCCC and forget the true reason why you committed to the program in the first place. You are constantly moving around, meeting all sorts of interesting people, seeing all sorts of fun and exciting is easy to get caught up in the moment. However, I joined AmeriCorps*NCCC to serve, to give myself to something bigger, to help those in need, to drop anything and move towards the need...and by leaving my team, packing one bag on a day's notice and hopping into a van with total strangers, I did just that. I feel a lot more self-aware and independent after my Tennessee experience and at this point I feel comfortable taking on just about anything.