Fighting Poverty with Passion
So the interesting thing in life is that you can have all the plans in place that you want, but unless you are open to those events that take place in happenstance, you are squelching opportunities as they present themselves to you. I have always been a little bit of an analyzer. I like to have my next move planned out, but it always seems as though those plans do not work themselves out exactly how I had in mind. I have come to understand how our attitude shapes our interaction with events that are taking place around us. It is the old adage that for every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction.
At this point I have been living in New Orleans for 5 months, and I am just now beginning to feel as though I have a grasp on the city and have spent enough time with some individuals to feel as though I have a support system, though this support system admittedly still needs some work. This is something that is growing slowly, but I realize now that it takes time to create a sense of comfort for oneself. I think that being patient with the change and realizing that most people are empathetic towards the idea that it can be difficult to make big changes allows some leave way for a VISTA in transition.
I have taken the opportunity to talk to a few individuals who were living in New Orleans prior to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and I am beginning to understand that the city I am seeing now was not how it was directly following the storm. I have drawn a few conclusions from these stories. First, many individuals did not have a “savings” in place for if a disaster took place. Though I realize that some individuals did not even evacuate the city, the ones that I have been speaking with did evacuate. Their stories of going to different states and some of their experiences varied, but it has definitely opened my eyes to the experiences of some following the storm. Many families were displaced, and many had to make a life work somewhere they had never been before. One young woman who was in the service industry was telling me about how she evacuated with a pair of clothes and her vehicle because she didn’t think it was going to be that bad. When she realized that the storm had disrupted so much of the city, she had to prepare to find a job in the city she was staying in temporarily. I have heard about the rebuilding of the city following the storm, and it definitely shows that people had to work together to rebuild and might explain the small community feeling here. Most individuals, even if you have never met them before, will look you in the eyes and say hello. This is very different from most cities where many individuals will just ignore you if they do not know you. These are some of the cultural differences that one may encounter when coming to New Orleans for the first time. Also, I took a bus trip through the 9th ward on Sunday and it was definitely a different view of the city than what I have seen in the CBD or Uptown! But what was really great was you still saw a great sense of community like a family playing football in a common ground area.
No matter how many times you make a transition in life, you still have an adjustment period. I moved a few different times over the past ten years and so I didn’t think that making a transition would be difficult. I think many VISTAs experience a sense of uneasiness when they transition into their roles, especially when they move to a new place as well. Every city and town has their own culture, and the VISTA is asked to understand that culture to contribute to the organization they are a part of…but it just takes time and patience with yourself to understand the work in the organization and how you can best contribute. I know I am likely “preaching to the choir” on this one with those who read the blog, but I am saying all of this to let VISTAs know that having patience with yourself is sometimes more difficult than having patience with others, so keep in mind that you are starting a new project and will build up some confidence in time.
Having a group to transition to a new place with has definitely been a positive experience. Although a lot of the work I do is attempting to connect with VISTAs located in Minnesota and Virginia, there is an eclectic group here to engage in outings with, making it a smoother transition.
Two quotes that inspired me for this post are as follows:
If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery
A group becomes a team when each member is sure enough of himself and his contribution to praise the skills of the others. ~Norman Shidle
FEEL FREE TO COMMENT IF YOU READ THIS!!!
-Sara Weber, TNVNet VISTA Leader, Tulane University Center for Public Service