Sunday, March 20, 2011

Building the Change You Wish to See in the World

Here I am at my mom’s house in Falmouth and after a solid 12 hours of sleep I can finally look back on my trip this week. What I like most about ASB is that there are so many different personalities that come on this trip but, somehow, we all come together to form a group that genuinely likes and respects each other.

Everyone met up bright and early at 4 am at the airport. Although most people didn’t even sleep that night there was an excitement in the air. We boarded the plane and finally at around noon we arrived in the Louis Armstrong airport. We got our rental car and headed to the center where we would be staying.

We pulled up to the mission center and met our host. The week that we stayed there were many different college and high school groups staying as well. But we all had a place to stay and breakfast, lunch and a hot meal for dinner.

The first night we all stayed in and went out to dinner at CiCi pizza I was really excited because I have seen the commercial many times and finally I was able to go there. The rest of the night everyone relaxed and got to know each other. We also watched a documentary about Katrina. Generally, everyone was shocked by the lack of help supplied by the government. But, I was glad to see how the people of Louisiana were always so optimistic and had faith that everything would work out for the best. I think it is amazing that people who are dealing with so much devastation and destruction still wake up in the morning happy to be alive.

On Monday we walked around New Orleans. New Orleans is a beautiful city it has a unique carefree culture. Everyone takes their time and tries to live life to the fullest. We also scheduled a bus tour to show us the effects of Katrina and the Levee system failure. Our tour guide had a first hand account of what had happened during this devastating man-made disaster.

One of the first things that our tour guide told us that the damage done to Louisiana was not from Katrina but from the failure of the levee system. The engineers used silt instead of clay to hold the levees in place. The water shifted the silt and caused the levees to collapse and flood the entire city. One of the most damaged areas of Louisiana is the 9th Ward, which our tour guide took us through. It was saddening to see the destruction left from the levees break. Most people cannot afford to live or rebuild their houses because they are not receiving federal aid and the price to even buy land is too high. The tour guide was amazing; she gave us documented information about the levee system failure and the government.

After our tour the group walked around the city. My friend Joey and I went around to the Riverwalk where we saw a steamboat and the flea market. We were able to see the decorations of Mardi Gras on all of the balconies. Then the group went out to dinner at an authentic Louisiana-style restaurant. It was great!! The seafood was so fresh!! By the end of the night I was ready to start our workweek.
The next day we woke up early and got ready for work. When we got to the Habitat Restore shop we met all of the crewmembers and then went to our sites. The first day I worked with Jon. When we pulled up to the site all we saw was some concrete on the floor with big mounds of dirt and some concrete blocks that would serve to raise the house. We moved dirt around so that it created a mound, then we put termite shields on the concrete blocks so termites couldn’t climb up the concrete and eat through the house. Next, we started building the first layer of the house. We had to move these big blocks of wood onto the blocks of concrete. We put a couple of those down and then it was time to go home.

On Wednesday I worked at a different sight with some other college students from Indiana who were apart of a fraternity. The house was at the same stage as the one from Tuesday but all of the big blocks were down. Next, we started putting pieces of wood down so we could put down the subfloor. That is when the nailing started. For the rest of the week myself, and the rest of ASB were nailing.

On Thursday we finished putting the pieces of wood to build the floor and started putting down the subfloor. It was so cool to start from scratch like we did. We could see our progress. Finally on Friday we finished the subfloor by after lunch and then we put together the frame of the house. It was amazing lifting the wall up. When we started working we were 2 or 3 feet of the ground and now we were actually putting up a wall, actually, we put up 2!!!

The whole week was amazing!! I love ASB! I think what I liked about this trip, besides meeting all of the people and being immersed in the culture was seeing the house that we were working on start from scratch. We also got to meet the women that we were building the house for. She brought us some lunch of jambalaya and cornbread. She was so thankful and was relieved to have the help of Habitat; and we were thankful to meet her and to help as much as we could.

On our final night we went into New Orleans and went down Bourbon Street. It was interesting to say the least and it is an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.

Overall, ASB is one of the best things I have experienced in my life. I loved working on planning it all year. I was so glad to meet and work with Kendra, Stephen, and Angel on planning and raising money for this experience. I am so excited about the group of people that went on this trip. They are all amazing people and I had a wonderful week getting to know them. I think this was the best way to spend my final year at Framingham State by spending my spring break with people who care about the same things that I do, making a difference in people’s lives.

Emily Bliss

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