Fighting Poverty with Passion
This past month, I believe the word that I said the most was KaBOOM!
I represented New Orleans Outreach on the planning committee for the McDonogh City Park Academy playground build. I had never actually attended a KaBOOM! playground build prior to MCPA’s build day. I had heard a lot about these builds: In only 6 hours, a playground will be built from scratch with the help of 200-300 volunteers. A simple formula, right?
Well this month taught me that there was so much more that went into this formula to make the children of MCPA’s dream of having a playground come true.
My main contribution to this project was finding volunteers for the build day, November 13th. The idea of bringing together 200-300 volunteers from all over the city seemed challenging. However, when people and groups heard about the project, they eagerly signed on to help (even before I told them about the free food, DJ, and free t-shirt that they would get for helping). I was even able to enlist the help of my younger brother as a Build Captain (which meant he was in charge of leading a team the day of the build with a piece of the playground construction, had to attend a training, and show up to the build at 6:30 am!) and my dad volunteered to work the nursing table, since he is a certified EMR. I was so excited to have the support of so many people to make this playground a reality.
At one point, the KaBOOM! committee actually thought we would have too many volunteers so I had to stop recruiting build-day volunteers. I moved on to helping other committee members’ projects. The team talked about making the build “green.” Since one of my majors in college was Environmental Studies, I was happy to help the group find agencies that could be of assistance to “greening” the build. I also found a class from Tulane that would be willing to assist with childcare and other non-build related activities that would be necessary to have the day of the build for the event to run smoothly. A cornerstone of the build day was to have a DJ. Finding an affordable, talented DJ proved to be harder than the committee thought. I was happy to be able to find this piece of the puzzle!
As the week of the playground build approached, the stress of having a successful build increased. I do not think I ever realized how much prep work went to making a volunteer event successful, and even if I did, I have a much great appreciation now for all the work that goes into having a successful volunteer event. In the end, not every thing went smoothly. The two days prior to the build, the “heavy duty” playground prep work took place, and due to a shortage of volunteers, I quickly became versed in how to use a power saw, which ended up being fun – quite empowering! And although the playground took seven and a half hours, instead of six to officially “KaBOOM!,” in the end it was KaBOOMed! and the children were so excited to have a place to play!
Through helping plan this large scale service event, I have come up with a few tips that will hopefully help others that work on these types of projects:
Betsy’s guide to KaBOOMing! a large scale project:
– Elizabeth “Betsy” Lopez, AmeriCorps VISTA Visit New Orleans Outreach, to learn more about the Outreach program and volunteer opportunities in your area.