Currently we are sitting on the cement floor of a house in St. Bernard Perish. We have spent the last day and a half installing insulation on the walls and ceilings of a house that was completely destroyed by Katrina. As we look out the window we can see a variety of interesting things. Across the street we see a beautifully rebuilt house complete with an outdoor patio and a stone face. On either side of us we can see the foundation where houses once stood. Some of them are even decorated with basketball hoops. During our education discussions later about our experiences, we felt that this practice was disrespectful because it appears that people have forgotten what these cement slabs represent. We have found it to be helpful to have time to reflect on all the sights and sounds that present themselves to us throughout the day.
As we have been working inside the house we have grouped with students from other universities around the country. This is unique to our site because all the other groups working with the St. Bernard Project are made up of students from a singular school. We have enjoyed getting to know the other students from Washington University of St. Louis and discussing similarities and differences between our universities.
While we have enjoyed getting to know the other students we are working with, we have also devoted some of our time to conversing with the locals of New Orleans. One particularly rewarding experience occurred during out taxi ride to Bourbon Street. Our taxi driver had been driving for 23 years and told us that he evacuated to Kentucky during the storm. He was grateful that we were giving up our time to help his city and seemed concerned with our happiness and safety outside of the Perish. To have somebody whose house had been destroyed tell us how much it meant to him made our experience seem that much more worthwhile.
We look forward to continuing our hard work and watching the transformation of this house throughout the time we are here.
Jamie Melnick (senior)& Erica Belgard (sophmore), University of Connecticut