Video by: Hannah, Philip, Josh, Cristian
Ryan: YRNO (Youth Rebuilding New Orleans) was a lot of fun and a great way to get hands on within the community. This group or organization was started shortly after the disaster where originally high school students were gathered and put to work in different communities to help rebuild houses. We got to escape the tourist scene and dive into a community that was almost completely restored. This gave us the insight of how it is possible for a community to come together to fix problems that will help sustain life. This makes me personally want to research and find a problem within Ellensburg, where a program could be created to help people within our community. This could be small things or joining some of CLCE’s community service projects. Later for dinner we meet up with Hannah’s Aunt Martha who has been a resident of New Orleans for over 25 years. The interesting part is Martha lived in Seattle till she was 19 years old. So we were able to connect with her experience from living in Washington to her thoughts of New Orleans. Some of the most important or interesting ideas that I took away from our dinner conversation was some brief history, patriotism toward their city, and the lifestyle of the people. Martha shared that New Orleans was very different during the slave era where fifty percent of slave owners were actually of minority descent. This was due to that New Orleans was one of few places that allowed interracial marriage where third generation kin were not considered of minority and were considered a free man. The cohesion of the community toward their city is unbelievable. If I were to go ask a random person tomorrow where/what is the best city in our country, they would say New Orleans. Tying in with their lifestyle, I have not talked to a single mad or rude person. Everyone has been nice and willing to help (whether that be directions, places to eat or what food to order off a menu). People here seem like they are yelling at you when they talk but that is just who they are. Overall New Orleans is exceeding what I expected.
Olivia: Youth Rebuilding New Orleans is an organization run by members of the New Orleans community and their goal is to rebuild houses and sell those to teachers for about 80% of the value. The reason they sell those houses to teachers is because they want to impact the education system by retention of teachers in the neighborhood. By helping this organization we are contributing to New Orleans and to the nation itself by helping others construct a house and have more teachers in the community to educate this and future generations. In the activities I participated with this organization I learned the importance of group work and communication, working together in the different areas of the rebuilding. We needed to communicate and help each other to be able to move forward and get all the work we needed to do. Those activities also helped to create bonds between the members of the cohort, me and my partner where talking about the differences in cultures, how the neighbors are different, school systems, entertainment and life style. Going back to my community I will be able to volunteer and make a difference in the community, participate in activities that will help the student community find a cultural identity and be able to show this identity anywhere. Talking with a person that can relate to my culture and to the New Orleans culture helped me visualize the whole experience better. Martha, being from the Northwest area and adapting herself to a totally different culture, was able to draw connections between the two cultures, see how they are different and take the best of both of them. She experienced the deserter after Katrina, even after losing all her belongings and not being able to return to her home, she and her family decided to stay and continue their life in the area. This is a great example of how all the New Orleans community have a strong sense of unity, and how they help each other to have a better community.
Ricardo: I felt honor to have had the opportunity to work with Youth Rebuilding New Orleans (YRNO). I think that the work they do for their community is amazing. For example, they buy houses that were damaged by hurricane Katrina and remodel them. They are then sold to teachers with a 20% discount if they agree to stay in New Orleans and teach for at least three years. They said they did this to attract teachers to New Orleans because after the hurricane Katrina the education system was completely destroyed. While working with YRNO I had the opportunity to paint doors for the majority of the time. Since this was a job that took a while we had to work as a team to get things done. But we also had to motivate each other and organize this to make things more efficient. The experience from working with YRNO has made me think about how I can help my community back at home. I was thinking of helping translate for Spanish speaking individuals at hospitals since I am going into a medical field. I want to do this since the Hispanic community in Ellensburg is growing fast and the majority of them don’t speak English. I had a great time listing to Martha’s stories. She really gave a good insight of her experience during and after the hurricane. It was nice that she had lived in the Pacific Northwest and was able to compare the life style between Seattle and New Orleans. She also mentioned how in New Orleans everything is so slow and chill back while in Seattle everything is done in a rush. I also thought it was interesting how before Katrina there wasn’t a big Hispanic community but after the hurricane the Hispanic population boomed due to the demand of work in construction.
Elizabeth: Today I was very excited to help rebuild a home with YRNO and learn more about their organization. While talking to Prince, the lead construction manager, he shared how the Non-profit changed his life for the better taking him off the streets and giving him a reason to educate himself while offering employment. Being a part of the AmeriCorps program, a non-profit with a similar mission, I was really able to appreciate the kind of work we would be partaking in for the day. I enjoy physical labor and the reward that it brings at the end of the day. I look forward to working within or starting a non-profit organization after graduation and I believe this opportunity will help pave the way for future goals throughout my personal and educational career. Today I learned fun and practical skills like caulking baseboards and painting while supporting Youth Rebuilding New Orleans and their mission. This was an awesome experience that reminded me how good it feels to give back. I look forward to engaging in volunteer opportunities in my own hometown and encouraging others to do so as well. I really enjoyed the time we spent with Martha at dinner tonight. I applaud her for being so open and honest discussing issues of race and how it truly does affect us whether in New Orleans, back home, or anywhere else. Hearing about her personal story before and after hurricane Katrina was unforgettable. The detail she provided on the day of the hurricane was very vivid, it really grabbed my attention and I wanted to know more. Being able to get Martha’s perspective on the cultural aspects of the city, education system, and locals was probably more insightful then any tour guide could have been. She is a sweet and knowledgeable woman and I look forward to meeting more individuals like her who are willing to share their stories here in New Orleans throughout my stay.