Another busy month has passed at Youth Rebuilding New Orleans! In case you are not familiar with the organization, Youth Rebuilding New Orleans is a non-profit organization that was organized by youth, for youth, following Hurricane Katrina. Many young people who wanted to volunteer to help rebuild their city were turned away by other non-profits because of the liability associated with reconstruction work. Instead of accepting this rejection, a committed group of teenagers organized to assist with the home-rebuilding processes which were occurring throughout the city.
In 2011, however, YRNO began its current plan, Project HOMEwork. This is a unique initiative that combines volunteer opportunities and skills training for youth with home-ownership opportunities for New Orleans teachers. Purchasing blighted and foreclosed homes, YRNO rebuilds them with youth volunteers, teaching them the importance of civic engagement and home ownership. By using volunteer effort to build the house, YRNO can pass on the savings to local teachers by selling the homes below fair market price. In this way, YRNO works to improve the community, supporting revival of the New Orleans community and culture.
Though YRNO has grown exponentially since the initial days following Hurricane Katrina, our vision and founding principles have remained the same. As the VISTA at YRNO, I have had the privilege of seeing this inspiring commitment firsthand, every day. Currently, Youth Rebuilding New Orleans has 4 Project HOMEwork sites and a volunteer calendar that is bursting full to the brim. The Future Leaders Initiative is gaining momentum at Sci Academy, as we just wrapped up the hiring of our new Youth Engagement Coordinator– Megan Gold! YRNO and its volunteers have also continued to work in Braithwaite, gutting homes in a community that was completely destroyed by Isaac.
Personally, this month has been filled with many new experiences for me: conducting interviews, meeting volunteers from all over the world and painting trimwork (at our Hope St project site), just to name a few. While each day has its challenges, I truly couldn’t ask for a better VISTA experience!
This group of volunteers came to New Orleans from all across the country! After communicating via email and for the last couple of months, phone for the last couple of months, it was a pleasure to meet them. The generosity they displayed, making so many sacrifices to travel to New Orleans and work with us for an entire week, was inspiring. They have also graciously agreed to support YRNO in the Super Service Challenge, a contest that I have been promoting to our volunteer groups.
On October 25th, YRNO brought 80 Sci Academy out to Braithwaite, LA, to spend their afternoon assisting community members with gutting their homes. The work was tiring and dirty, but the amount of work that still needs to be done—more than 2 months after the storm—is heartbreaking.
To finish on a brighter note, our Hope St project site is almost finished! This is especially exciting to me because this was the first YRNO site I ever worked on, when I brought a group of friends to volunteer—even before I was a VISTA. It’s so rewarding to see how far it’s come, and we can’t thank enough all of the volunteers who made it possible!