Fighting Poverty with Passion
The last couple of months have flown by as a series of experiences. I lived through my first hurricane, had my first drive-thru daiquiri gutted my first house, pet my first alligator, and finally got a taste of Cajun food. Hurricane Isaac gave me a taste of the chaos with natural disasters. I volunteered in the 311 call center, and it left me with an invaluable sense for the culture here. Some of the calls were desperate, while others were unbelievable. I got one call from a man who wanted to report price gauging on his illicit drugs. Yes, that actually happened, and if you heard this man you would just know that he was not prank calling out of boredom. Daiquiri’s are amazing, and by that I mean the best idea ever! While I have seen pictures and commercials before of cleaning up the wreck after a hurricane, I don’t think anything could have prepared me to stand there among the flooded homes. The families that I met on a day of service in Braithwaite, Plaquemines Parish were some of the strongest people I have met. While they lost everything, they never forgot that they have each other. While they watched us tear apart the walls and floors, they never forgot to say thank you. While they didn’t have a place to call home, they never forgot how to smile. While they struggled to rebuild after disaster, they never lost hope. These families and the family that became the 311 call center taught me what a community looks like in New Orleans. It is not geographical, but the bond that is formed with your neighbors, colleagues, and friends.
The hurricane was a disaster disguised as a blessing for my work at Plessy. I was able to meet key gatekeepers into the community while working in 311, and they have since been essential to helping me spread the outreach of Plessy. Work seems to run much more smoothly with these connections in place. Plessy will be hosting a few of the Children’s areas during the upcoming festival season. We will be at the Fete Marigny, Mirliton, and St. Claude Main Street Night Market festivals. Now I must go and jump into head first into the next month!
– Jean Hsu, Tulane AmeriCorps VISTA, Homer Plessy School