We've finally arrived in New Orleans. After training in Biloxi, I'm now an "expert" on things like "de-molding," "gutting," and "cooking for 80-100 people."
This project is absolutely the most exciting thing I've done in Americorps so far. We are essentially helping to get a start-up non-profit off the ground and running, which is exciting in itself. The fact that the non-profit exists to aid the post-Katrina Gulf Coast, makes it probably one of the best things I've ever spent my time on.
The work is unbelievable. I won't even try to explain the state of the Gulf here, because you simply cannot understand it without seeing it first hand. It goes on and on, house after house, neighborhood after neighborhood, city after city. This recovery is going to take years, and not one or two... five or ten.
You all need to come down here for a week, spend some time gutting, and get hooked. I met a lady the other night who is on her 7th tour of the Gulf. It's completely addicting, simply because once you're down here, you realize that there's nothing else in the country right now that needs doing more. I'm already dreading the end of April because I know I'm not going to want to leave this work.
The people here are all amazing. Most of these volunteers saw the aftermath of Katrina on the news, threw a sleeping bag, food for a week or two, and some water in their car, and drove to the coast. After hooking up with Hands on USA, they ended up staying for months, without having to worry about food and shelter. Imagine getting to meet someone crazy enough to just drive, without a plan, into a disaster area to see what they could do. Awesome right? Now imagine being surrounded by dozens of them all the time.
For those of you who were worried for me when I shared the one room with my team in Jackson, you will find it interesting that I am now sharing a room about the 1/8 of that size in New Orleans. It's 12 x 10, which comes out to about 13 square feet of personal space per person. That's about twice your body, so enough room to lay down, but not to stretch out your arms.
It doesn't even matter though. The work is so amazing, that I hardly spend any time in there at all. I do have cell phone service and limited internet access, but 0 free time. I wish you all could be here, and see what I'm seeing. If any of you have a free week between now and April 27th, call me. I'll talk you into coming down here, and then put you to work. =)