Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

Field Report: CBNO – Jack Duffy

How do you figure out what comes next when it’s not clear what shape the present is taking? It’s a tricky thing.


Getting instructions on how to approach potential survey respondents at Unity of GNO

I’m guessing the answer to that question has a lot in common to an economist’s answer to the question, “Who feeds Paris?” It’s impossible to answer literally who provides the produce, fish, bread, meat, cheese, wine, etc. for each restaurant and grocer in appropriate quantities each day, who determines the quantities, and how the public manages to find what food they want at a given time. The impossibility of an answer is meant to illustrate the power of a market, the power of the interconnected but seemingly disparate desires and abilities of every single person within that network. In at least that sense, I hope the public service ‘industry’ in New Orleans works like the Parisian food scene. Why?

Filing a field report that covers a month of VISTA things at CBNO isn’t always straightforward business. This year of service is unfolding differently, with my projects stretched… sedately over longer periods of time than they were in my first VISTA year with A’s & Aces. My work on the GNOHA blight resource guide crescendo-ed steadily during the month of January and finally bore fruit in the last week of the month. The buzz surrounding the municipal elections, other than the few run-offs still in progress, followed a similar schedule.

I’ve had some work on my plate, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that things have… deflated a bit this month.

Since my last post, I finished the aforementioned draft of the blight resource guide, started a bit of research for GNOHA, did a little bit of networking on behalf of the Participatory Budgeting campaign, read the news copiously, participated in the Continuum of Care homelessness count (Erin summed it up pretty elegantly here), and fretted about next steps for most of the items on that list. It feels like less than it reads.

I like working. I like the sense of purpose that comes with understanding a role and carrying out the work necessary to advance a bigger picture. The anxious thread that’s run through this post is a product of that. I haven’t had enough to meet my appetite this month, but this is where I’ve learned the importance of having faith that soon I’ll be needed a little more in feeding Paris.


One other reason to lighten up: I live in New Orleans and it’s Carnival season. Sometimes, when they’re not scheduled to and you’re not even looking for them, those two facts will conspire to sneak up on you and brighten your day.


Monday night (when there wasn’t a parade in the city!) I had the sincere pleasure of watching a Roots of Music marching band practice rumble by, down the street. The drum major couldn’t have been taller than 4’9” and most of the band looked like they weren’t yet in high school. It was hard not to crack a huge smile (and I didn’t hold back), but they were all quite focused. If you see them at a parade this weekend, cheer extra loud. They were hard at work to be ready for this week. (Likewise, if you haven’t yet seen The Whole Gritty City by CBS News’ 48 Hours, make time to watch it.)

Happy Mardi Gras.



This entry was posted on February 27, 2014 by in VISTA Field Reports.


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