Fighting Poverty with Passion
|My first two weeks living in New Orleans can be summed up by one simple phrase: “WHO DAT?!”You can’t escape “WHO DAT?!” Seem a little quiet on Bourbon Street? Might be time to yell “WHO DAT?!” What if you’re stopped at a red light on St. Charles Avenue? As good as time as any to roll down the window and holler a “WHO DAT?!” In the checkout line at the Rouses Supermarket with a King Cake in hand? Again, a friendly “WHO DAT?!” is applicable.It was impossible not to get caught up in Saints mania. After the victory was assured, my roommate Nick and I went down to the French Quarter to take everything in. I must confess that I didn’t feel the overwhelming joy like everyone else did (I am, after all, a recent transplant, and my football affiliations sadly still lie elsewhere), but I am so incredibly happy for everyone that night that was celebrating. The Saints mean something to the people of New Orleans, something I can’t put into words, and for one night, everyone forgot about their individual worries and troubles and simply came together. Above all, I think my sincerest and biggest hope is that after my time with AmeriCorps is through, I, too, will be able to feel a similar connection to the City.
The following Tuesday, Nick and I left for our AmeriCorps Pre-Service Orientation (PSO) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The days were filled with training seminars, and the nighttime was ours to get to know other VISTAs who were beginning their years of service. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not keen on icebreakers or team building exercises (human knot, anyone?), but PSO was actually a lot of fun. Our facilitator did an excellent job of turning the material into activities that were both fun and informative. I am now sufficiently pumped for the year ahead, and I can’t wait to get started at Tulane and City Hall.
Returning to New Orleans, everyone was still buzzing about the Saints. The good vibes of the SuperBowl win then carried into one of the best (and safest) Mardi Gras in years. Mardi Gras was a blast, too, and I enjoyed seeing some of the parades with a few of the new friends I have made here. And, yes, “WHO DAT?!” continues to be shouted even today, nearly two weeks after the big win. No one is quite sure when it will stop. One thing is clear: the people of New Orleans finally got a much-needed answer to their question. It is, resoundingly, “WE DAT!” – Nick Solari, AmeriCorps VISTA Member
To learn more about the City of New Orleans Office of the Mayor Volunteers in Government Program (VIGOR), visit their website at: http://www.cityofno.com.