New Orleans Service-Learning Trip: Day 3 Recap

Rain Delay: Sister Hearts Suprise Service

Because of the preventative weather, we had to figure out what to do with a couple of hours of time. Through connections of other organizations, we found out a place called Sister Hearts could use our help. Off of first impressions, it was what looked like a normal thrift store, but after a man named Anthony explained this place was for the formerly incarcerated after they are released from prison. This was created because life after prison is hard to re-adjust to, especially with the dehumanizing and strict schedules they experience in the prison system. (Evan)

Anthony’s presence was so positive and welcoming, I would have never thought that he spent 18 years of his life in and out of prison. As we sorted clothes and valuables, he was so proud to have us help the cause, and to help break the social stigma of the formerly incarcerated. He took many videos and thanked us for our service, because he wished he could have been in a foundation like ours when he was a kid. I’m glad the community is connected and provided this special opportunity for us to serve. (Amaris)

Speaking with Anthony about his experience being incarcerated and how others who were incarcerated experience such trauma and troubles while in prison – and even after they are released – was very eye opening. I am now aware on the importance of programs such as the Sister Hearts and why it is so helpful for everyone who has previously been in prison. I really enjoyed my time helping sort out the glassware and kitchen items in Big Tony’s Corner. I enjoyed the space so much that I even decided to purchase some shoes in the thrift store. (Jordan)

St. Bernard Project (SBP) – Forstall Street House

When first arriving to the construction site, we met with the SBP people and introduced ourselves through an ice breaker. The weather wasn’t great and prohibited us from working in the morning. When we came back after lunch we got straight to work. We went over the goals for the day and the onsite safety / weather protocol. We started with putting in some wall frames and how to use the nail gun to keep them in place. This was truly a group job and many people were used just to hold the wall frame. After this, we learned how to put support beams to keep the wall frames sturdy and together. (Evan)

As a collective, most of us had never experienced shooting a pressurized nail gun or a circle drill. There was definitely a wall of fear that washed over me as the thought of getting hurt flooded my head. But I learned all these fears just block you from having new experiences. Meaningful experiences can change your outlook on life, which has been a common theme throughout our trip. Being put in an uncomfortable environment is one step closer to being comfortable. (Amaris)

As the day went on, the heat did start to de-motivated us from our purpose, and we weren’t feeling our best. Our site manager acknowledged the heat and encouraged us to take breaks and drink water as much as we can. But if we could rally each other more, these simple acts could make the impact more significant. By being attentive and caring for each other, I can feel the efforts everybody put in and love is the great word to describe this experience. (Tina)

After we finished working, one of my peers said something as we were walking up the wooden
stairs into framed house. They said, “Imagine how it would look finished.” It made me think of
the huge impact of this house. A house is not just a house, but a place of safety and love. The
family that will be fortunate to live here one day possibly because their home was destroyed in
the devastating Hurricane Katrina. I’m so grateful to be a part of creating a firm foundation for
not just a home, but for a family’s hope. (Amaris)

When we were leaving the site, saying goodbye and thank you to the SBP crew, we saw
how truly appreciative they are for us – the volunteers. Throughout the whole session, they
were attentive and patient towards us despite whatever mistakes we made. Seeing the progress
that was built by students like us from a tiny platform. That one day, it will become the loving
home that protects the residents from catastrophic weather like a hurricane. It made us proud of
what we can contribute to our society. Thank you to the team of SBP who was behind this
meaningful project. Thanks to Ryan Nece Foundation for bring us this opportunity. And thank you
to my fellow peers who are always there are support each other to make a difference. (Tina)

St. Bernard Project (SBP) – Flood Street House

Starting the day, we were prepared to work all day with SBP at the construction site. However, due to the inclement weather, we were delayed for the first half of the day. Despite this setback, we were able to still volunteer and contribute to the community at another location, as you just read about.

After lunch, we went straight to work at our house off Flood St. in the lower Ninth Ward. Before putting on our safety gear, one of our project coordinators, Elaine, explained her personal connection to the neighborhood. She grew up two blocks away from our site and lived through Hurricane Katrina. She went into detail about how after natural disasters, if FEMA declared the neighborhood mostly inhabitable, they were not required to give you as much towards disaster-relief. Knowing all of this allowed us to understand on a deeper level why the citizens of New Orleans were fighting so hard to restore their communities. They experienced the unimaginable, and it felt like no one was in their corner.

Our other project coordinators, Trent and Rory, split us up into two teams while we worked on our goals for the day, which included fixing the window openings and setting up windowsills. Our coordinators were very patient and understanding with us about explaining safety rules and how to properly handle power tools. Today, we mainly worked with circular saws, nail guns, and handheld saws. Working with Rory and fixing the window openings, we were able to measure and cut the openings to make them bigger. After that, we had to install queens and jacks to headings so that the window could be supported and installed properly. Rory was very knowledgeable and helped us throughout the entire process.

On the other team, we worked with Trent and helped with the window openings as well. He taught us how to properly measure the planks and how to cut with the circular saw. Trent was very helpful and encouraging as he showed us how to do things multiple times. He made us feel comfortable, and also joked a lot with us. Even though at times some of us were hesitant, he pushed us to try new things and was very supportive. As a team, we were able to complete three window openings, and we were even able to do it ourselves without needing assistance from our coordinator, which allowed us to learn new skills. 

Walking through the frame of the house, we were able to see and understand just how much work it takes to build a sound and structured home. Knowing this, we have realized just how lucky we are to have a roof over our heads. The citizens of New Orleans have gone through so much following Hurricane Katrina, and they are still recovering to this day. That is why the aspect of community-building and strength is so important.  

After our debrief later that day, Ms. Melissa later explained how the SBP gets most of their workers from AmeriCorps. The organization provides training and preparation so they can be deployed across the country and assist with nonprofit organizations. The AmeriCorps are paid very small amount of money, so most of them are tackling America’s challenges out of the goodness of their hearts, which is very inspiring. All of today’s projects taught us many important life skills we can take with us for the rest of our lives. 

Student Authors

Read More

New Orleans Service-Learning Trip: Day 1 Recap

New Orleans Service-Learning Trip: Day 2 Recap

New Orleans Service-Learning Trip: Day 4 Recap


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