On Monday we headed out at 7:45 and gathered at the St. Bernard Project home-base for a brief orientation before driving over to our work site. We were given the ever-famous New Orleans Mardi Gras beads with a “Women’s Week” medallion attached and took our seats on the wooden benches.
They talked to us about the importance of what we were doing. That each family had been affected by Katrina, that they had each been home-owners before the hurricane and that they had proven to be unable to afford repairs on their own. An alumnus from OWU who co-founded the organization was also there to welcome us.
After our orientation we boarded Texas (as we affectionately call our rental with the Texas plates) and drove over to the house we’d be working on.
Ms. Casandra will live in the house once it is completed–with rooms for her children and grandchildren “if they ever need help getting back on their feet,” she said later in the day. We found out that Ms. Casandra had fled with her extended family before the hurricane (two of her four children were safe in colleges north of New Orleans) and stayed in a church for a few weeks. She said her neighbors across the street were trapped in their upstairs room, as was a newly-wed couple and their baby. By throwing water bottles between the houses they were able to keep the baby hydrated long enough for both families to be rescued later in the week.
Ms. Casandra eventually moved back into her house which had been destroyed. She said she covered all the windows so that no one could look in and was living without plumbing or electricity–with just the hose running inside into the house and an electric wire from the power line to watch television with. When we met her today she looked around the house with tears in her eyes and said how wonderful it would be to have light in the house again after living in it for so long in darkness.
Her son, Regis, worked with us at the house today as we mudded the seams in the drywall. We met all sorts of wonderful people working on the house: two older women from the area who’d given their memorial day to help out, a couple of women in their 20s from Boston, and a man who comes down ever few months from Baltimore to volunteer. It was a rag-tag group on this first day of Women’s Week, but it’s always inspiring to see all sorts of different people committed to service.
On a side note: there is nothing more thrilling and exhilarating you can do with 8 hours than sanding and mudding walls…
In the evening we wanted to try something we’d never done before–so we drove on over the “Herrah’s” the casino by the river. $15 dollars later we were a little confused but having a blast. Fig and I left poorer than we got there, but KP actually made $25!