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PDecember 2, 2010

What “Rebuilding” Could There Be Left to Do in New Orleans?

It is just before dawn on a cool autumn Sunday morning as I load my bags into my jeep, ready to drive to the airport. I’m headed to Plaquemines Parish, LA for the next week to rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. This will be my first visit to Louisiana, and also my first time on a service trip. As I pack up the jeep and say goodbyes to my family, I start to think that it would be nice to sleep in instead of hustling to catch my late morning flight. Hurricane Katrina happened 5 years ago. What “rebuilding” could there be left to do?

grand bayouPlenty. I learned this pretty quickly the next morning. MDS, the organization I volunteered with, is tasked with rebuilding the Grand Bayou Village which is right outside of Diamond, LA. Grand Bayou Village is a peculiar community – it is only accessible by boat! You can imagine the difficulty MDS faces getting labor, materials and equipment to the project site by boat. Each day we had to travel by boat to the jobsite with our tools to get to work. Although some of the rebuilding work at Grand Bayou Village is done, there is a lot left to do. Several homes are vacant, falling apart from damage sustained during the storm. The residents of these homes are living with relatives in other parts of the Parish, waiting patiently for MDS to finish their work. Other homes have already been rebuilt by MDS. These homes are easy to pick out. They stand 12’ above the bayou, and the layout and building materials of each home is the same. The new homes are very attractive and feature amenities that the residents never imagined they would have. More homes are under construction and I spent the week helping rebuild the homes of residents displaced by the storm.

The rest of the week was a blur. The work was hard, but rewarding. My experience in Plaquemines Parish has encouraged me to give back to the community more often. And I hope to return to Grand Bayou Village next fall, because there is still plenty of rebuilding left to do.

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