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      It’s been 7 years, yet families are still misplaced, homes are abandoned and the community is still attempting to heal. New Orleans was hit by Hurricane Katrina and the levy breaking many years ago. Thousands were killed, and every home and family was in some way or another impacted.

      The past two Spring semesters of college, I’ve been given the incredible opportunity to attend an Alternative Spring Break trip to volunteer with 9 other UCF Students. Both years I have been chosen for the New Orleans disaster relief trip, working with the non-profit organization His Hands 2 Go (HH2G). HH2G is a Christian ministry in the New Orleans community that has made a promise that they will help restore homes, churches and areas that were affected by the disasters. Not only do they work toward repairing the community, but they so easily give hope to the people whom they serve.

     Last year, my team and I worked on a house in the Lower 9th Ward, an area directly affected by the hurricane and in the direct shot of where the levy broke. Ms. Shirlene was the sweet, sassy homeowner who we helped all week. When we were finished with her home last year, she was able to move in for the first time since Katrina had hit.

Jobs done at Ms. Shirlene’s Home:

    Paint the entire outside of the home
 Paint the entire inside of the home
         Tile, grout and finish the floors of the home 

    This year, however, our team worked on two main projects. Our first project was the Garden on Marais. The 9th Wards of New Orleans are low-income areas, with no grocery stores to buy fresh meat or produce. They really only have stores like a Quick Stop. Kayla Miller is the project manager of Garden on Marais. Her hope for this garden is that they will be able to grow enough produce for the community to be able to purchase at a cheap price. In addition in making produce, there is a warehouse in site. The goal for the warehouse is that once the families purchase the produce, they will be able to turn the warehouse into a kitchen and community eating center. This will give families the ability to cook their food on site, and come together as a community to share meals.

Jobs done at Garden on Marais:

       Pull weeds and till up the 4 x 50 ft area
   Take apart and move the garden bed
     Transport produce in the Hoop House
Transport 4 x 50 ft area of soil
Fill and complete garden bed

      The next project we worked on was Mr. Albert’s house. Mr. Albert is the kindest and most beautiful soul you would ever meet. He is so gentle. Mr. Albert’s home was destroyed in the hurricane. He was given the privilege of buying a cheap, small home until he had enough money to have it repaired. He slowly but surely has the money, and we were able to give our services of work and tools! So, we painted his house for two days.

Jobs done at Mr.Albert’s Home:

    Prime and paint the front of his home
         Paint the entire inside of the home, including the ceiling
         Paint the doors, door frames, gate, window bars 

   Every trip that I make, the more amazed I am that how small of acts we are doing can completely change the lives of the people who we are helping. With each home and project we were given, we were able to move each home owner one step closer to moving in their homes. The phrase, "Do small things with great love," by Mother Theresa reigns closely in my heart. My perspective of my day to day tasks has changed. A simple smile at a stranger, or holding the door open, or even calling someone you haven't talked to in awhile is small act that is done with great love. That love can transcend humanity, acts done with love are so much greater than I can even put into words. We are all brothers and sisters...why not love each other? How amazing would our world be if everyone was just kind and loving? 

        New Orleans may have a negative connotation, or known for their party atmosphere and Mardi Gras…but working in New Orleans and speaking to the natives made me realize, the heart of New Orleans is so much more. The people of this community are filled with such a zeal for life. Their love of music, food and culture truly sets the stage for the whole atmosphere of New Orleans. My heart has been so moved by this community, I urge YOU to find something in your daily life that moves you to be a better person.

     This next week I will be posting different stories heard from the amazing people that we met while volunteering. Stay tuned to hear the amazing life stories of the people who live in New Orleans. Maybe your perspective too ,will change. 


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