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A small but intrepid contingent of 5 Accotinkers traveled to New Orleans on April 26 – May 2, 2009 to witness to and serve the people whose homes were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. We were so privileged to be a part of this amazing opportunity led by Rev Scott Sammler-Michael and TUULBelt ministries. We were joined by nine members of the UU Church of Arlington. It was a life changing experience. New Orleans is like no other city in this country. It has a slow-paced Caribbean charm that masks widespread poverty and corruption. But the people are truly special. They have a spiritual quality to them with deep gratitude for all the help they have received.
It was depressing to see how devastating the floods were to the city, and how much still remains to be done. Half the houses in the Lower Ninth Ward are gone and all that remains are foundation slabs. We heard numerous stories of crooked contractors that took people’s money in their hour of despair and skipped town. But at the same time we met community organizers who have converted an old factory in the Lower Ninth into a community center to teach people new skills. We toured the eco-friendly green homes by the Make it Right Foundation and the Habitat for Humanity Musicians Village.
We worked all week with Hands On New Orleans and AmeriCorps volunteers on 4 homes. Some of us repaired the foundation and flooring of a flooded home that suffered severe termite damage. In another home we repaired electrical wires and switches. In the Lower Ninth we hung drywall and laid floor tiles for a family that was ready to move back in. We also hurried prepared a couple of rooms in a house still covered with mold so a man could move back in after FEMA took back their trailer. And most importantly we listened to people’s stories as witnesses to the events that changed their lives. This is why we are members of Accotink: to connect at a spiritual level with others, help change the world and grow in the process.