For the past five days I have been in New Orleans, Louisiana with the Clemson Wesley Foundation, working in the blistering NOLA heat. When I first decided to go on the trip my main decisive factor was that the city was on my bucket list and Wesley trips are usually fun. This is sad to admit post-trip because of the silly, self-centered nature of the reasons; the bright side is that they made me commit to working hard for a great purpose. Last week was definitely no typical first week of summer!
My reasons were like so manys' who go for voluntourism experiences (aka a mission oriented vacation, key word vacation). Once I got the hammer in my hand and saw the wasteland before me, I realized this adventure was much more than an instagrammable moment. We worked for three days building the exterior walls for 10 new houses we were doing the grunt work to prep for the Build-a-thon, a push to build 10 houses in 10 days to commemorate the anniversary of hurricane Katrina. It has been ten years and the city still has visible scars, the neighborhood we were in in particular was still barren.
I love building walls because it is something I can visualize and understand, plus it is the support that the roof stands on. The walls and then the roof come together to shelter and protect a family, there is nothing more special than that. It is amazing how some wooden studs, some installation and a bit of dry wall can block out the elements to create a comfortable space for a family to live and love.
My favorite part of the week was meeting one of the future owners. She was overjoyed, and pouring out thankfulness and humility. She had earned it though! working 350 hours on 8 other houses so that she too could one day turn the key and enter a home of her own. There is nothing more special than that.
You can see pictures and track the progress on the New Orleans Habitat for Humanity Facebook page.