Thursday, May 1, 2008

Day 5

Floor joists and 60 blocks ...
It's Thursday and our trip is winding down. Honestly, I feel like one week is not enough to accomplish so much as building a house (or a number of floor systems). Today was a great day, we are still currently working on two houses. The second house we are working on (located on Desire St.) is coming along well. Today, we sistered all of the floor joists and started the task of blocking. Yesterday, Ryan and If cut out 60 blocks to a length of 14 and 3/8 inches. Of ourse it wasn't close to enough. By the end of the day our team had blocked about half of the house. On the first house (located on Piety St.) a group of about seven of us, including myself, started doing some work on the porch. Nash and I had to notch out a few spots in a joist in order to make it sit properly because the rims at the porch slant downwards. While doing this I measured wrong and Nash and I started to cut out too much wood. Fortunately, Hannah (the house build eader) noticed the incorrect measurement before it became a problem and we were able to still use the beam. Following this mishap, Hannah gave Nash and I the task of measuring out another floor joist that needed to be cut. Let's just say measuring is not my forte. I must have measured it five times and had Nash check it a few times as well. I'm not bad with the cir-saw, but that's only because I was told where to cut and just followed the line. It was good to see that it fit in correctly upon cutting it, it was a confidence booster. That was just about as far as we got on the first house; three o'clock came real quickly.
Following build time, our group came back to Camp Hope and helped them out by cleaning the second story. I'm not going to lie, this was not the first thing I wanted to do after working all day. I much would have rather jumped in a nice warm shower, but even that is unlikely, I have a better chance of winning a million dollars. It seems there is never hot water in Camp Hope. After cleaning up around Camp Hope, we all had dinner than headed out for ome ice cream. After a long hot day, ice cream was great!
Our build team then had some bonding later in the night, where Mr. Greene taught a group of us to salsa and waltz. This was such a good time, and helped me out a little because I'm a terrible dancer; ha ha! Tonight, I felt a lot closer with everyone and had a great time.
It's too bad that we only have two more days left. It feels like we just got to New Orleans; I really don't want to go. Before we leave we have a few more things planned though, which should be fun (like eating some gator). I plan on making the best out of the next two days even if it does rain tomorrow on our last build day. I have a feeling even if it does rain, our group will still have a blast. -- Brett Murphy

Hammers sound like rebirth ...
As a try to reflect on all that I have experienced here, different emotions start to take over - Happiness, sadness, guilt, love, and, most importantly, hope. We arrived Sunday, April 27th, 2008. It is going to be three years in August since the hurricane happened - You would expect much to be done right? - I did. Sadlly that is not what I encountered that day. New Orleans still needs help and more than ever. There are still destroyed homes, businesses, and schools that need to be restored. But there's more. We met a few locals and they all said the same thing ... "Tell everyone not to forget about us.....we are still here!". I felt ashamed in some way because I was one of those people that forgot - Yes we talk about the hurricane and all the destruction it caused, but it does not really hit you until you come down and see the result for yourself.
We all have worked extremely hard with Habitat to rebuild the homes of future families. "Silence in New Orleans is like death" says group leader Mr. Kosow - " But when you hear the sounds of hammers and people it is the sound of rebirth and new life to New Orleans". It is frustrating to know that we are only going to be here for a week. There is so much left to be done and to leave is the worst feeling in the world. I do believe Louisianna will return to its formal glory, but it is going to take time. All we can do is have hope - It is the only thing that can keep us going.
The last three days have been the most inspirational experiences in my life. I have gotten to meet volunteers from all over the country as well as the members of panthers at work (us). This trip has united us not only as a team, but as a family, and the memories we will treasure - We are PANTHERS AT WORK! - Michael Vidal

A mixed bag of feelings ...
First arriving in New Orleans, I never imagined it would be such a dirty, sweaty, and sometimes emotionally draining experience. Well, maybe the sweaty-dirty part, but certainly not the latter. Driving away from the airport I was impressed with some of the rebuilding that had been done there—once we came to the suburban/urban parts of the city, my reaction was just the opposite. I quickly became frustrated with the lack of progress that had occurred since the '05 hurricane. Although everything I've experienced so far seems to be a handful of feelings that I just can't tie together, I wouldn't trade it.
So far, I've blistered a thumb, became a little too friendly with the sun, skinned four toes, scratched both arms falling from a wooden beam, dropped a hammer on my foot (resulting in bruising, blood, and an aching ankle) etc., and I've loved every bit of it. I've become closer to people I never would have guessed I'd even be acquaintances with. I've learned I truly can't dance, I don't like crawfish, I'm terrible at PDQ, and I've slept more this trip than I've slept since...probably last summer. Talk about reducing sleep debt :-). I've learned how to give the best hugs, how to handle a first-grade classroom, and, if anyone needs a new construction worker, I'm your girl (not so much). Maybe another day of work and practice will help. I've met some inspiring people: Marguerite, who lost both her home and her son within the past three years, brought me to tears inside her trailer home with the amount of faith she had in her community and the incredible hope she had for the future. I also worked with Jessica, a woman for whom we were building a house, who had two young children and (as a muralist) spoke of her plans to decorate her childrens' walls in a safari theme. Most importantly, I've grown extremely thankful for all that I do have (including things I usually fail to even think of).
For me, it's always a better feeling to give than to get. I know I'll be taking more from this trip than I could ever have put in. While I'm looking forward to no-time-limit showers, seeing family and friends, etc., I can't help but think I'll leave here feeling like I could have done more. All I really know right how is that I believe our team has found a strength during this build that none of us thought we'd find, both individually and together, both mentally and physically. And now I'm ditching you for a toothbrush, toothpaste, and a pillow. Later, maybe! — Lauren Barry

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Day 4

Talking, working, bonding ...
Today, on the house my team started on, I finished laying down wood panels to make a floor. It was awesome to get that sense of accomplishment. I know our team is not going to be building a complete house so it feels good to at least finish a part. I was surprised at how exhausted I was when I started out this morning, but somehow I found a second wind when I moved onto the next house. At the next house I helped line up these joists that go under the floor. I know it sounds weird but that was by far my favorite part so far. I was really good at making sure they were lined up on the marks. The only thing that sucked was I sunk my boot in a big pile of muddy water. I’m talented like that. I felt like the team really bonded today. We are a lot more comfortable together and I can talk to any person it doesn’t really matter who they are. I’m having mixed feelings thought. I miss my family and my bed but I know the second I leave here I’m going to miss everyone. Who knows if I will ever get to see and hang out with these people ever again? This experience is really nothing like I expected. I came here complaining about Camp Hope and now I just feel grateful to be experiencing this. I don’t even mind the lovebugs anymore. --Tracy Lavallee

A day of accomplishments ...

Most of us started on a new site/house, while others went back to finish the decking on the last house. I was looking for the puppy I met the first day (Precious), but she was not there =[. We worked through the morning getting a lot done by doing "toe nailing" and putting up the major boards to start the floor and joisting. Lunch came quick and everyone met at Margret's again to eat together. She brought everyone craw fish! 162 pounds of it too!!! I couldn't believe it. She just took out two boxes and dumped them on the table. Everyone had a field day. She even taught us how to eat them... the head off and put it in your mouth 2. Chew down on the head and suck it 3. Peel the tail and bit and push the middle 4. Eat the meat out..she did this in two seconds, quick and easy. I took like a few minutes and made a mess. It was so nice of her though; I couldn't believe it. She is such a strong woman. She also passed out her e-mail to everyone, begging for e-mails. I cant wait to e-mail her when I get home.
After lunch all started together back on the 2nd house. We started a new thing called joisting. We basically were working backwards from yesterday, because you need the joisting to start the floor. We had a goal of getting most of it done, but it always seems as though the last hour or so of each day is crunch time for everyone. We got them all done! That made me feel so good and accomplished about everything. We worked really well today... all of us. I also feel that we worked together. I feel closer to almost everyone now. Its so nice to know I can talk to everyone and joke around, even the chaperones. After our nice day of building, we took a quick trip down to Musicians' Village. It was cool to see all the different colored houses. Purple, pink, turquoise, red, yellow, blue, every color! It was nice. I did notice thought, that the other side of the street was very devastating, and looked abandoned. Thats how all the neighborhoods look to me. One side is good, another is bad.
Showers came after, and so did dinner: lasagna. We all ate and then just chilled out for most of the time. Some of us came to the computer room and watched Kendra do her live broadcast back to the school: that was so cooooooool. It was awesome to see back home and talk to people. Following that was the talent show. There was a lot of singing, and funny jokes. "V6" went up and rapped (L-Cat and J Lizzel were WICKED funny) and Mr.G sang and played his guitar (way to go Greene!). When that was over with, we all had circle time again, on the other side of the building this time (so we could actually hear each other). Yesterdays circle time seemed of more of "what you saw/ how you feel" bout the devastation. Tonight's seemed more of a "happy circle" ah-ah. It was very nice though. Everyone had something positive to say and we all had lots of fun. I really truly felt we all got closer and feel more like a big FAMILY and not just a group of kids and adults. All in all, today was awesome. I will admit these past couple days have been craaaaaazzzyyyyy with building , and running around and being busy. Today made me realize how glad I am for actually doing this, and also how I wish i could do more. I realized that what we are doing is a lot to the community, but to us (or me at least) it is not a enough what so ever. I really don't want it to end, and it's sad to know that is 1/2 way done =[ I do miss Nashua, but I really enjoy being here. This is a once in a lifetime thing and i am glad that WE ALL ARE A PART OF IT!!! G'night --Sam D

P.A.W. making a difference ...
Being in New Orleans has been such an incredible experience. In the beginning of the trip, I didn't really know too many people, but since we have started building, everyone has become so much closer to one another. We are truly a good team that works really well together. Today I had the chance to go back to the house on Piety Street to continue our flooring job from yesterday. I felt so accomplished knowing that a group of nine of us were capable of laying down an entire floor after one day of learning how to do it. Jessica, the owner of the home we were working on, is such a inspirational woman. She was out there all morning with us, helping us hammer nails into the floor of her brand new home. She was telling me how excited she was to paint murals in her children's bedrooms. She was so appreciative that our group was more than happy to lend her a helping hand. Once we finished the job at her house, we went over to the next site on Desire Street. There we learned how to pout in joists, which was a lot of hard work in the beginning. We decided to form some type of assembly line and accomplished the job quickly and efficiently.
It has been really cool to work with and get to know all of the Habitat, Americorp and other volunteers. Today I hammered a nail completely wrong and it split the wood. An Americorp worker, Annalisa, was saying to me, "It's okay, you're doing great! Keep going, all of your other nails were perfect!" She, Emma, and Stephanie really kept us motivated and made us feel as though we ARE capable of doing this if only we have hope and don't give up.
I've learned that in order to be in Louisiana after hurricane Katrina, the most important thing you can have is hope. I met a woman here named Margaret who has lived on Desire Street her whole life. Her house has been completely washed away and she is not eligible for a Habitat house. She now lives in a tiny, little FEMA trailer on “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” She jokes about her trailer, saying it's "The White House," because it is ridiculous the lack of help she has received from the government. In less than a year, that trailer will be taken away from her, and she will be living in a tent on that property. I have never met someone who has so much faith in life. Her son was murdered a little while back and she still believes that things will get better. She has welcomed us into her home to use her laptop and check our email, use her bathroom, and charge our cell phones. She made us a huge lunch for all of the volunteers and workers as a thank you. She is a thankful, kind and generous woman with such a big heart. All she wants is change and I believe that the Panthers At Work team is really making a difference here.
Tonight we had the talent show, which was so much fun. Everyone is really bonding and getting along well. I really don't want to go home until everything is fixed...there is so much that needs to be done here. I am extremely excited to continue building tomorrow and see what else our group is capable of accomplishing! -- Jodi

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Day 3

Always more to write ...
Despite getting caught at red lights, drivers driving too slow, GPS malfunctions..we made it on time today. As we drove through New Orleans past abandoned houses, stray animals, closed businesses I really was in shock, no words could describe what I was seeing. I could only imagine what the neighborhood
we were going to build at would looked like. Like I said we did arrive on time, in fact a few minutes early according to my watch.
Today my alarm went off at 5:45 am, I pressed the off button, without getting up, figuring someone in the group would wake me up. I was wrong. So around 6:05 am I had woken up to shuffling of sleeping bags and fellow group members in a panic that we had been running late. I had got up, we all had a quick breakfast. As we got into our vans (not having to worry about those Canadians and their flat tire this morning) we were off, to our first day of building. Not going to lie, I was nervous, no idea what to expect, or what the people would be expecting of me. We got there on time, a few minutes early according to my watch. We had got out of our vans and no sooner had we met Margret. Sweet, happy, and touching lady. Margret had told us how happy she was that all of these volunteers would be building in her neighborhood, and had willingly opened her house to all of the volunteers, including making lunch and supplying drinks and an air conditioned bathroom for the hundreds of volunteers if needed. I did go in her "house" which was a trailer not big at all. Margret had told us about all of the little things that she once had, and that even the littlest things that we would take for granted we shouldn't. After hearing personal experiences from Margret I was extremely touched. The rest of the day had went on, all I could think of was if I was taking the little things in life for granted. This made me work harder I was frustrated that all these people are basically homeless, and how most of us take our homes for granted. I just feel that no matter how much time an individual or group puts into helping, it will never be completely done, hoping more people will volunteer. We are helping and it's amazing. Just like this blog no matter how much I write there will always be more, and hoping more people will write. We are learning and it's amazing. -- Not Brittany Carmona

Inspired and making a difference ...
We have been here for about 3 days so far. These three days have been enough for me to realize that my small little boring city, Nashua, is the best thing in th world. I really never thought I would say this, "I MISS NASHUA!" I realized that we all have it so good. Just for the simple fact that I have a home that I can call my own. Yesterday we went to visit an elementary school, Andrew Jackson Elementary. There are over 1000 kids attending that school. The class that I went into had 24 kids. My math class has only 18. I saw how these kids are so young, so full of life, and yet they already have to worry about having a meal at home or, if they live in a trailer, hoping that it's still there, hoping that the government hasn't taken away. Today April 29, 2008 was the first day of our construction jobs. We met a woman named Margaret. This women went through Katrina, lost her home, a year later her son was killed. She lives a trailer; she only has a certain amount of time that she can live on this trailer. When this time is up, she will set up camp where her home used to stand. This woman fed us, she welcomed us into her home and had the courage to talk about her experiences and make people understand that help is still needed. She broke my heart and made me realize that she would give anything in the world to have the home that I, every single day complain about. We also met Jessica, one of the home owners that we built the floor for. I truly admire her because she doesn't look into the past; she looks into the future that she will have at her new home—the new home that she helped build for her kids. The one home that she can go into and call my own. Overall my day was pretty good, working in the hot sun. Do my hands hurt? Yes. Am I darker? Yes. Did I sweat and get bitten by a whole bunch of little insects? Yes. But you see all of that is worth it it because at the end of all of this I am going to make a difference. -- Maria Dominguez

New Orleans Shout Out ...
New Orleans... It has been an interesting trip so far. I'll start off by explaining my "exciting" flight. I have motion sickness. This, I did not prepare for. I basically had my head between my legs (deep breathing) throughout most of the flight. I even slept with my head on the tray table because Icouldn't sit upright. That was awesome fun (sarcasm is key here). So, besides the flight, being in New Orleans has been quite and experience. We've been to the center of the city to check out the shops and the food. I'm a pretty picky eater but, I tried Gumbo, Jambalaya (which is my dog's name), fried crawfish, fried catfish, and fried pickles so far. All of which I probably wouldn't have tried if i wasn't in New Orleans. Besides the flight here and the "day off" of roaming the city, building has been fun. I feel pretty manly as I wield my hammer 'n nails with my shades on and just a tad of sweat (to prove i did at least some type of work). It's also pretty cool to see my peers work. Usually I see them in class, sometimes sleeping during said class, or just outside of school just hanging out and not doing much at all. I thought I knew everything about them through that image. That thought has now changed. I've also never met most of the other students on this trip so my extended family has been "extended". Talking about extending my family, I am now part of a 6-member crew called The Vantastic Six... Thats all that can be said about that... What happens in New Orleans, Stays in New Orleans SIXIEEEEE! Shout out to my homiez Twiz, L Kat, J. Lizzle, V. Nasty & F.T. throw up ur V's!!!

One of the best parts of this trip so far has been when I met one of the homeowners that we were building for. Her name is Jessica. She's basically my home girl now. She was helping us build and everything. We worked as a team and we talked about Hip Hop and the art scene in New Orleans. For those who don't know, I've been rapping for six years and have been a dj for 3 so hearing what people thing about my type of music from a different part of the country is pretty exciting. I'm used to people talking about New York Hip Hop and enjoying it because we live near New York (in New Hampshire) but when I hear people from New Orleans talking about New York Hip Hop it makes me think about the impact Hip Hop has on everyone and how it can reach across the country and across the world. It's pretty cool, haha. But anyways, back to Jess, she's actually a muralist. When she told me that i asked if she could draw something on my shirt (i always have my sharpies) and she said, "Sure, give me the shirt for the night and i'll have somethin' for you tomorrow," the only problem was the shirt she was going to draw on, i was wearing, so she said taht she's going to bring me a shirt she made already to the build sight tomorrow! i can't wait! And obviously i had to break out my skills and i rapped for everybody while we did work. It was awesome.
All in all the trip is a "once in a lifetime" thing. I love it here and i have done some much already and its only been THREE DAYS!!! I plan to come back to do more later on in my life. They estimated that it would take another 25 years to completely rebuild New Orleans. This means i still have 25 years of work to do! They'll see me back, no doubt.
-- Joe Harrington

Monday, April 28, 2008

Day 2

On Monday, we woke up relatively early and enjoyed our first breakfast at Camp Hope. NOLA Habitat doesn't build on Mondays so we had the day largely to ourselves. The first item on the agenda was a trip to Andrew Jackson Elementary School on 8th Street in Chalmette. Of course, the directions Mr. Greene had Googled were for Andrew Jackson Elementary School in New Orleans. Similar hijinks followed and we got to the elementary school late. They still welcomed us with open arms, however, and let us read to kindergartners, first-graders and second-graders. They were so cute!
Then we headed into downtown New Orleans, the French Quarter to be exact. We grabbed a quick lunch featuring po' boys and catfish and then caught a steamboat tour of the Mississippi. We spent about two hours aboard the steamboat Natchez, learning about the river and the city.
Later we tooled around the French Quarter, visiting shops and buying souveniers. A couple of us got our fortunes read in Jackson Square. The fortuneteller predicted that some of our family members will be recieving cool gifts upon our return.
Tomorrow is the first build day. We'll be leaving for the site at 7 a.m.! Wish us luck.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Thirteen hours later ...

The P.A.W. team boarded the bus in Nashua at 3 a.m. and, 13 hours and two plane changes later, disembarked at Louis Armstrong Airport in NewOrleans. Luggage and tired teens were piled into five minivans and we were on our way. (The pilot on the Boston toTexas run talked about us over the plane's intercom.) We took I-10 east, passing through neighborhoods still recovering from Katrina. We stopped at Burger King for a snack, giving workers a fast and friendly rush of business.
We eventually arrived at Camp Hope where we unpacked and then played basketball/pool/guitar/naptime depending on energy level and inclination. The dorms are furnished with rough bunks fashioned with 2 x 4s and drywall screws, but they are air-conditioned. Dinner was varied and filling. Pat opted to skip the traditional fare and instead dined on an old MRE (meal ready to eat) he found. Nearly everyone got to try the cheese and jalopino spread included in the meal.
That's it for now. On tap for the night are a couple of orientation meetings and, likely, an early bedtime. Nighty-night.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Press Release

Nashua High South Headed to New Orleans

Twenty-one Nashua students will spend their Spring Break in New Orleans, La., next month, building houses with Habitat for Humanity.
"We have a wonderful group of students going on the trip," said Jennifer Seusing, principal of Nashua High School South (NHSS). "They are giving up their spring breaks to pitch in and give homeless families a place to call their own."
The trip to New Orleans is Nashua South's third such "alternative spring break" in wake of the hurricane Katrina disaster. In past years South students have helped out with hurricane cleanup in Pass Christian, Miss. and built houses in Baton Rouge, La.
The students involved applied to take part in the trip and are responsible for raising the funds needed—about $660 per student for transportation and housing. Fund-raising activities include bake sales, tagging, silent auctions and donation solicitation.
Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall in August 2005, was the sixth-strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded. It caused devastation along much of the north-central Gulf Coast of the United States. At least 1,836 people lost their lives in the storm and subsequent floods, making it one of the deadliest U.S. Hurricanes on record. The storm is estimated to have been responsible for $81.2 billion in damage, making it the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. Thousands of families were made homeless by the hurricane and many of these are still living in temporary housing. To date, Habitat for Humanity has built more than 700 new homes for families displaced by the storm.