I had never been to NOLA before, so I had absolutely no idea what to expect. But what I found far exceeded my expectations. The city is beautiful. It’s full of history, music, culture, and people who want to go out of their way to help not only visitors, but each other, which is the spirit I tried to embrace today.
We volunteered at a kindergarten through eighth grade leadership academy charter school to help them prepare for the upcoming school year. The tasks seemed small at first glance: inventorying closets, sorting books by reading level, and scrubbing desks, but I soon realized that what we were doing went far beyond just us and the staff at the school. When a school looks clean, organized, and new, the students are more likely to engage in learning and gain knowledge faster and more efficiently. It boosts their morales. It also gives the community something to be proud of, which is especially important in a community of middle to low income families, many of whom are still recovering from Hurricane Katrina 12 years later.
Each day, we pack our lunches at camp and bring them to our worksites, but today Winona and William (some of Ryan’s friends) brought us pizza and cake, which was an incredibly nice surprise. So instead of throwing away our sandwiches, fruit, and chips, we delivered them to homeless people living under an overpass. I could tell immediately how grateful they were for even that small measure of kindness. I realized just how lucky I am to have what I do, because these people aren’t bad people, they just made a mistake or hit a rough patch. I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity to come to New Orleans and work, learn, and grow closer with my peers.
– Whitney James