1. I went on a Buck-I-Serv trip to New Orleans, LA from May 6th-13th, 2017 where my team helped a citizen build a shed in a community where Hurricane Katrina’s devastation was still very evident. 8AM-3PM was dedicated to hard labor under the scorching sun of building a building from our raw hands, and nighttime was used to explore the city.
2. I was very surprised to see that even after a decade, the area in the Lower Ninth Ward were still suffering from Katrina’s damages. The government has not stepped in as much as they should to help New Orleans citizens, and as we talked to many of them, they have very bitter feelings towards the government. As for the man we worked with, most of the supplies were bought with his money. He was a carpenter, so he was lucky he had the tools he needed. Other people, however, had little to nothing and had to make do with what they had. The other group were in shock that they were expected to help renovate homes with the little they had. It made me realize that people in the Lower Ninth Ward were saving every last penny to build themselves the best life they could, because many had large families to take care of.
What we take for granted, shelter, heating, air conditioning, decent flooring and walls, etc., were what these people were spending their life savings for. The best part of this experience was seeing how they never gave up, their perseverance, and being able to remain happy with their family despite their losses. The man we worked for lost his daughter to the flood, and his mother and sister died days within this. His parents’ home that he lived in was destroyed and he had nothing. He built his home with his bare two hands, with the help of the Lower Nine Organization (which we volunteered for). He gained 100 pounds from stress but despite all this, he was able to remain happy because he never took anything for granted and appreciated even the smallest things. The last day, I teared up because I wanted to continue to be around the kind of energy the man gave off. He taught me that hardships I face will help me appreciate the smaller things in life.
3. The work we did throughout the week was the hardest physical labor I had ever done. I did not know that I was physically capable of completing what we did. When I look back at the experience, I realize I was able to cheerfully make it through the week because of the man we were helping out. We worked very hard, but he also talked the entire time about his experiences. He said that when there aren’t volunteers, he does this work by himself. This is a man who walks with a cane because of his bad leg. I couldn’t imagine him alone having to do what a team should work on, but he knows he needs to do it for his family and this kind of willpower was very admirable.
As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, I was really able to learn to appreciate even the house I live in. Being able to live in a privileged community, I wish there was more I could do to help these people. Working together with people I’d never met before, we all came together to help this man who had so little. I realized that if people were willing to commit to one week out of several in the year, it can be such a huge help. And these people appreciate it so much, too.
The man said every hour how grateful he was to see us. He always opened up his home and said anything that was his, was ours as well. He always bought water for us and when I went to the store with him, he kept saying to buy any food I wanted to eat! He was a Christian man, too, and said his life motto was, “If you’re worrying, you aint praying!” I was able to see what true perseverance looked like. I respect him so much for being able to provide the best he could to his family, and I just hope that one day I will be able to come out of hardships with the same attitude as him.
4. This trip was very important for me because I had never gone on a service trip before. I was very worried because I was nervous about going with people I had never met before. I was able to overcome this quickly, however, because I realized I was not there for the people. I was there to serve. I always thought I was a type of person who liked to serve, and because I an studying to be a doctor, this was very important to me. I was afraid that after I go on this trip, it would make me second guess my future career, as my dream is to serve in third world countries. However, this trip was so good to me and confirmed that this is truly what I love.
More than the work I do, I love talking to the people and really getting to know them on a personal level. It’s not that I love the physical work (quite the contrary) but I love that the physical work I do is helping people. It really ignited in me a passion to pursue this kind of work more. I was afraid at first because I am not much of an adventurous person, but I’d love to travel more to offer everything that I can, as I did this week in New Orleans. Meeting people at places like this makes the world seem not so big, and you really learn to humble yourself, which is why this was a significant trip for me.