Fighting Poverty with Passion
On August 29th over 10,000 volunteers spread out across New Orleans participated in over 120 unique service projects to in commemoration of the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. My organization, Network Voluntours, was directly involved in the organization of the event. We were responsible for organizing and collecting volunteer projects for the day and connecting the Non-profits, schools, and government organizations with their volunteers. Because of this, I was able to have a bird’s eye view of the entire day, from backstage to front.
Katrina is a still, and will remain, a very sore subject for many of New Orleanians. Overall, the day received a lot of good press, and those who participated truly impacted the city. Even being from Central (near Baton Rouge) I very much have an outside perspective on how Katrina effected New Orleans. The most interesting part of this day for me was experiencing the different perspectives about the Service Day. To my surprise, many locals were against the Service Day and openly opposed it. There are a bevy of problems New Orleans faces from the aftermath of Katrina: over 90,000 minority citizens still have not returned to the city; “Hurricane Tourists,” some of whom I saw personally on the Service Day taking pictures of blighted areas left by the storm highlight areas that haven’t received any investment in the decade that has passed. Other major problems still exist such as homelessness, education, access to fresh food, affordable housing, better transit, all are problems the locals advocate for, and some feel the Service Day glossed over.
There was a much more positive, upbeat, hopeful attitude from the volunteers, project sponsors, and the community partners organizing the events. After the day was over, I followed up with several community partners on how their projects went, the attitude of the volunteers, the quality of the work done and how they felt about the overall experience. Literally everyone I spoke to on this end could not have been more happy with what the day stood for and the effect it had on them.
New Orleans faces many problems, just like any other city in the world. As the city continues to grow and evolve, so will the issues that face it. What’s important is taking time to heal and help your neighbor, for a city is given life by those who live in it. For all the clout that surrounded the Katrina 10 Service Day, 10,000+ people focused their attention on providing good to the city, something that can be appreciated and should be duplicated.