Fighting Poverty with Passion
I had a muddled draft of a blog post half-written for this month about the difficulty of defining a VISTA when something—this video (sorry for Buzzfeed)—reminded me of service I did for Unity of GNO earlier this month. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it for the past half hour. So never mind about that solipsistic “What is VISTA?” post.
So we’re on the same page: on March 31 and April 1, Unity of GNO had to re-do the Point in Time survey that was originally begun in January and abandoned because of “the freeze” that shut down the highways and public buildings in New Orleans for two days. Erin and I both participated in the abortive January survey’s overnight shift and both of us were moved by the experience. I signed up for the overnight shift again in March and the experience was just as… something. I’ve had a hard time figuring out exactly what my service with Unity of GNO made me feel; the linked video seemed to get the closest to it because there’s an element of embarrassment in people’s reaction.
I’m not going to turn this into a college admissions “mission trip” essay—the one that goes: ‘I went to Mexico for spring break to build houses with my church. We learned so much about the people there, but, really, I learned a lot about myself. Now I would like to attend Prestige U. k thx! 😉 ;)’
Without plumbing my soul for a neat lesson or unearned personal epiphany, I would like to suggest the following as an immediate takeaway: volunteering with Unity was, is, and will be a worthwhile experience. The homeless seem to get the short end of several sticks. We can and should be doing more.
The news from my day job will sound different. (And of course it will—the key to VISTA is that you take care of all the unsexy things that go into non-profit governance and function.) The light of progress on the mapping project is just peaking over the horizon. There is one loose end to tie up in Planning District 5 before CBNO turns its attentions towards filling in the gaps on our maps of New Orleans East and the Orleans Parish West Bank.
Like the rising and setting of the sun, the long gestation period for the blight resource guide continued. GNOHA hired a designer, Rashidah Williams, who did a fantastic job creating a cohesive, illustrated layout that helps make an otherwise dry and prickly subject accessible. The draft has come a long way in the past three months, through several rounds of edits-by-committee and incremental additions to yield a more complete final product. This edit-and-update phase been an exercise in patience and deference to community feedback processes, but it has improved the final product. I’m looking forward to its release online and in print at the end of next month.