Today we participated in Serve Green. We spent the morning building animal themed benches for parks. In the afternoon, we planted trees in Chalmette National Park. This evening, we had some speakers. The first set of speakers talked about the Avodah program, a program for Jewish young adults in which they do community service for a year in cities around the United States. Next, we heard from Iray Nebetoff, the volunteer director of the Community Center of Saint Bernard. Mr. Nebetoff presented his ambitious four year project, the Community Center of Saint Bernard, which provides food, clothing, communal resources, and access to important services for re-establishing life in Saint Bernard Parish.
After Mr. Nebetoff spoke, he introduced us to Barbara, a local resident of Saint Bernard. Barbara gave a rousing speech about her life experiences and overcoming life’s challenges before and after Katrina. She faced many challenge’s including the death of her child and the rebuilding of her home, twice. The home of Barbara and her family was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, and the rebuilding process had been emotionally and financially burdensome. As time passed, the family reconstructed their new home. Yet, all was not well in the new home. The kitchen appliances began to break and family members began to bleed through the nose. These effects resulted from the defective drywall sheets used to construct their home. The drywall had unusually high levels of sulfur, which corroded electrical wiring and created health hazards for people. Barbara labeled the defective drywall “Chinese drywall.”
Barbara is a very faithful woman. She prays and works hard to better her situation, taking every day one step at a time. Her faith helps her overcome the death of her ten year old son when he was fatally struck by a car. Amid the anger and aggression of the neighborhood towards the driver, Barbara grounded her emotions in her faith; she was not angry at the driver and she forgave her. Her positive attitude is endearing and contagious—winning her many community service positions in Saint Bernard including Justice of the Peace. As our group leader Taha suggests, “[She’s is a] strong advocate for change, despite all that she’s been through.”