The documentation group was well-traveled today. After stopping at the Saint Bernard Project office to talk to Liz McCarthy (the starter of the Saint Bernard Project) we went to five houses, and interviewed AmeriCorps workers, volunteers and a homeowner visiting her house. Two words that Liz attributes SBP’s success to is the volunteers and the community members. She explained that those who come down to help are filled with some compassion and passion it gives the community hope and strength to continue.
While we visited our first house for the day, we spoke to three AmeriCorps members who had been volunteering in Louisiana for a while and talked about the homeowners story, especially of her three daughters who were excited to move back. Three words they used to describe their experience were “refreshing, rewarding and impactful.” Each articulated how excited they were each time a new group of volunteers came down, and the homeowners and community of New Orleans was so appreciative to the difference each person made.
The Wheelock faculty pointed out how through the student run program, it is great to see a different light on students usually taught in a classroom. Service learning was mentioned as a way to connect to the community and tap into a deeper part of themselves and even develop in this way. A service learning trip and environment is definitely a different learning experience than the usual classroom, but as all three noted, students seem to blossom and shine through this trip. The Wheelock mission states the goal of college students is “helping children and families” which many programs, classes and experiences aim to fulfill. The mission of Wheelock could not be more demonstrated as it is in the groups that come down to New Orleans, in addition to learning about the culture, the devastation, the community and contributing through manual labor, Wheelock students are directly helping the families in which these houses we are rebuilding, and also the community and lifestyle of New Orleans.
The New Orleans Service learning trip contributes to the community hands-on through rebuilding houses but and also in a social justice spectrum, using reflection, observation and advocacy is a way to touch on the controversies and issues highlighted in Louisiana past and present. Bringing students down and showing them how one is able to help the community through service and in a real world scenario is how Wheelock prepares the students through professional development to succeed in the real world.
“It’s humbling and empowering at the same time”
Irwin Nesoff (Social Work Professor)
Thursday night is always my favorite nightly meeting, and this meeting was only made me appreciate everyone on the trip even more. We spoke of reflections from the week, stories that moved us, things we noticed changing in the place around us and in ourselves. The question arose of “what next?” and how everyone will spread awareness of the issues still in New Orleans and tell their story of their experiences once they get home. I felt honored to see the changes everyone made and how it impacted their path in academics, their beliefs, goals and ways of thinking.
After the group meeting, we interviewed each house group and overwhelmingly each student reflected on this experience as a “must-do” or “a life-changing experience” which made me feel so proud to be a part in documenting these reactions as well as being a part of this experience. Also, because of our donation to SBP, we were able to create a ceiling tile which will be on display for all volunteers at Camp Hope.