New Orleans’ resiliency on display for student volunteers

David A. Fernandez, Staff Writer

New Orleans has a lot to offer, the Volunteer Center gave me and other students an opportunity over spring break to visit and help others. It’s a city filled with rich history, unbelievable food and people who know how to have a good time. Believe me when I say there were booty-shaking contests, homeless people twerking for money, old people on balconies demanding to see breasts in exchange of Mardi Gras beads, bouncers urging you to go inside strip clubs, and a man dressed like Michael Jackson. Oh and jazz, lots of jazz.

All these peculiar events and people only made me think: Am I really here to re-build houses for Katrina victims? It seems everything’s better now. Katrina happened 10 years ago, am I really here for that?

Little did I know that the only reason there were smiles, people singing, playing jazz, and a booming economy was because of people’s resilience. They simply did not give up on their beloved city.

Soon enough I began to see the healing scars of the city. I was one of 12 volunteers that came rebuild a house of an aging old man named Mr. Ambrose Gabriel. Ambrose was simply a breathing-living beacon of hope, humility, and resilience. He is a man who decided to be kind to others so ten years later a bunch of college students would come to his aid.

We worked for four days painting, mudding, sanding, and putting on drywall. Each minute I spent there it was a minute closer to getting that man back his home. It was a true honor and I had never felt so fulfilled and humbled. I never knew the impact I had until I went to New Orleans.

According to the St. Bernard Project, it will take approximately ten more years for the city to fully heal itself from the devastation of Katrina. I’m glad I could lend four of my days to speed it up. I will certainly never forget each minute I spent there, even the little things such as walking down Royal Street and seeing the ancient buildings and architecture. I fell in love with the city and I will never forget it. I’ll come back next year, that’s for sure.