Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

Field Report: Catholic Charities

This past month has been absolutely crazy!  Due to the oil spill, our office has had to transition into disaster response mode.  In order to help coordinate volunteers, our staff has had to travel to New Orleans East, St. Bernard, Lafitte, Port Sulphur, and Pointe a la Hache.  These are areas of Louisiana that I knew next to nothing about, and I definitely never expected that I would travel to them.  Although, we have been traveling there in order to deal with a crisis, it has still been an interesting cultural experience. We have been out of the office for most of the last month.  The greatest challenge has been trying to balance our emergency disaster response work with our regular work.  I’ve been recruiting and placing interns and trying to plan service learning classes for the fall.  I don’t have a blackberry or really any means to check work-related emails when I am out of the office, so unfortunately, the emails have been piling up, but I think that I am finally starting to get them under control. 

There has been a huge influx of volunteers who want to help with the oil spill.  However, there do not seem to be enough placements for all of them; there just is not much that people can do to help.  Catholic Charities has focused on helping the families who work in fishing-related industries affected by the oil spill.  The staff from our community centers has been dispersed throughout the region to help with case management and to distribute boxes of food and gift cards to the families.  Volunteers are able to help by distributing the food boxes and helping families fill out intake forms.  We also have had a great need for volunteers who can translate Vietnamese; however, those have been difficult to find.  Other organizations have opportunities for volunteers to help with the actual clean-up process, but these opportunities are few and far between. 

We’ve also spent a great deal of time out of the office due to our Summer SERVE Camp for high school students.  Many high schools in New Orleans require that the students complete service hours, and SERVE allows the students to meet new people and to complete their service hours.  It has been a nice change of pace to actually be out of the office supervising volunteers, but it hasn’t really helped with the chaos and the quickly growing pile of work in our office.  However, I feel like I’ve learned a lot of new skills, and I’ve gotten to practice balancing multiple projects at the same time.  There are only two more weeks of SERVE, and then things should slow down…until the fall semester begins at least! -Jackie Thornton, AmeriCorps VISTA

To learn more about Catholic Charities, visit their website at: http://www.ccano.org

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About Tulane VISTA

Notes from the field from the AmeriCorps VISTA team at Tulane University.

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