Last week, all of the Rebuilding Together AmeriCorps members had the unique opportunity to travel to New Orleans, Louisiana and complete a week of service in honor of MLK jr. Day of Service and Solidarity. All of the AmeriCorps members that began their terms in August were reunited in a new city after not seeing each other since orientation. It was a week of food, friendship, new sites, and of course, service.
The over 40 AmeriCorps members that were in attendance were split into 4 groups. Each group was assigned a home to work on in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans. My worksite was at the home of a senior woman and her adult son who relies on a wheelchair to get around. As you can see in the picture to the right, the only way into the home includes relatively steep stairs. Anytime her son had to get in or out of the house, it was a struggle for them both. By the end of the week, they had a functioning wheelchair ramp (pictured on the left) which is going to benefit their day-to-day lives greatly. In addition to the wheelchair ramp, our team glazed the windows, washed mold off of the siding, and re-painted the porch area (I spent most of my time doing that – yay paint team!).
The worksite atmosphere for the entire week was amazing. First of all, I was so delighted to be serving such a nice family. The homeowner insisted on cooking us a delicious Southern cuisine lunch on Monday and even lent sweaters and hats to people who forgot their warm clothing. On top of that, I was beyond grateful for my build site teammates. Each day, every person knew exactly what their objective was and stayed motivated until it was time to go. We all got super invested in our projects. So much so, even, that on the last day, when heavy rain was expected and national staff told us we’d be moving to a more indoor site, we told them we couldn’t do that because we all really wanted to see our job through. So our last day was spent happily completing all of our work in the cold, pouring rain.
Although we were hard at work for the majority of the trip, we did make the most of our free time. I was able to experience truly wonderful New Orleans staples. Some highlights were enjoying beignets from Cafe Du Monde (and getting powdered sugar all over myself, pictured to the left), eating delicious crawfish etouffee at a restaurant in the French Quarter, dancing to live music on Bourbon Street, and walking around the Garden District to gawk at all of the beautiful, historic mansions. Throughout serving and free-time activities, the group spent a whole lot of time bonding and forming friendships and it was absolutely beautiful. As most of the best trips tend to do, the week flew by at lightning speed. Come Thursday night, we were all exchanging phone numbers and Instagrams and making plans to visit one another. To quote Martin Luther King jr., “Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.” While I’m sad to be leaving my far-away AmeriCorp friends and the community I learned so much about, I’m grateful that Rebuilding Together AmeriCorps gave me the opportunity to share my week with great people and to be great myself.