In celebration of our incredible 2017 Alumni, this fall we are featuring student reflections on our blog. The following reflection was written by Allen Yesin, a participant on our New Orleans Gulf Coast Program. Throughout the program, Allen’s upbeat attitude and sense of humor radiated to all those around him. His dedication to our service projects inspired other group members and we will never forget the look of pure joy on his face as we kayaked through Manchac swamp. In short, the summer would not have been the same with out him.
The following reflection was written by Allen after he returned home this summer. Scroll down to discover what Allen learned about teamwork, humanity, and the vibrant city of New Orleans.
New Orleans Reflection by Allen Yesin
In 2005, one of the worst hurricanes in American history hit New Orleans, ripping buildings to shreds and killing thousands of people. People lost everything, from their houses to their family members. This February, a freak tornado ripped through New Orleans, destroying many homes, some of which had been repaired from Katrina. This is the story of New Orleans.
There is little that I miss more than this summer. With school having started, it seems like there are more and more responsibilities that I have to deal with every single day. Every time that I stop and think about this summer with RLT, I am hit with a wave of nostalgia. I miss the new friends that I made from the far corners of the country. I miss the leaders that entertained and helped us every chance that they got.
There is little that I miss more than this summer
We flew in one by one from different states all over the country. There were two from Massachusetts, two from New Jersey, one from Washington D.C., one from Illinois, one from Texas and me from California. Some of us knew each other and some of us didn’t. From the minute my plane landed, I already knew that New Orleans was a special city. In the span of five hours, it was sunny, then raining, then foggy and then there was thunder. One by one, we introduced ourselves to each other and climbed into the van, nervous yet excited about the next two weeks.
This experience was something that I wouldn’t have traded for the world.
Now, New Orleans has very clear boundaries between the wealthy and impoverished areas. The Garden district is covered in green, boasting flora and fauna at every street corner. Every house is gracious and a work of art itself. The French Quarter is historic, with jazz artists playing all day and night. This all changes when you drive into the Lower Ninth Ward, a part of the city sometimes left off of maps. This was the part of the city that was hit the hardest during the hurricane. Driving down the street, ghosts of houses stare back at you. Barren foundations litter the landscape. It is almost hard to enjoy the French Quarter when one has visited the real New Orleans.
As a team, we worked. We awoke in the morning and made each other breakfast. We piled into the van and drove to the site. We ripped drywall, moved heavy furniture, and climbed into hot attics as sweat poured down our backs. At schools, we moved bookshelves and desks, set up supplies, and erased old computers. Much of the work was tedious and took forever. I loved every single minute of it.
I loved eating beignets and going to museums, don’t get me wrong. But, I realized that these hardworking people did not deserve what had happened to them. They lost so much and had suffered for long enough. It made my day to be able to wake up and make some contribution of fixing a person’s house. We met some amazing new people and blared music. We ate Sno-Balls and I even got to visit the dump, New Orleans’ most environmentally damaging observation deck. This experience was something that I wouldn’t have traded for the world. I ultimately thank the friends that I met, the leaders who stayed up late and played cards with us, the people who allowed us to work in their houses, the teachers who opened their school to us, the volunteer coordinators who bought us Sno-Balls and let us ride in their pickup trucks, and the city of New Orleans itself.
Thank you RLT for the best summer! Laissez le bon temps rouler
Join us on a community service relief program! From New Orleans to Texas to Nepal, we have a number of meaningful adventures to choose from.
If you are a 2017 Alumni and are interested in being featured on our blog, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org