Hi I’m Matthias Lupri. Thanks to Berklee and the Gracenotes committee for sending a team once again down to New Orleans. It was a full week to help out with the rebuilding from the devastation of hurricane Katrina, through the organization Habitat for Humanity. I have been here a few times for jazz events, but all prior to this horrible tragedy. It is very clear that much help is still needed here in this very colorful city of French Creole flair.
Spending our first day to explore the city was a great way to see the larger picture of the area and people before going to our worksite in the 8th ward. We all also took a drive thorough the 9th ward and saw the levee and some of the hardest hit areas.
Lots and lots of damage still very visible and all around.
Actor Brad Pitt was involved in helping the effort with new housing utilizing various architecture stylings, which are starting to give the area a newer modern look.
The arts, architecture, culture, and history of the people are genuinely amazing in all areas of the city and have shown through so visibly during our visit. The happiness and community spirit comes out strong and always a smiling face to be found. Meeting some of the people and animals of this area has been such a pleasure.
Some of the jobs on the house I was working on included adding metal strapping for hurricane safety, building an attic access, hanging air vent tubes, moving lumber shipments to locations, adding 2 by 4’s for ceiling drywall mounting, locking up some long bolts under the house, measuring, cutting and adding siding around the house with its window and door frames, and then finally a bit of painting. It was all much fun to do, and we all had to improvise where needed when proper materials or tools were not available.
The splitting up of jobs is random and may shift quickly, everyone just pitches in where needed, when needed. At one point we made a long line to pass large bags of insulation quickly and the feeling of togetherness really kicked in. I presume, in a lighter mode, it was like handing sand bags person to person to stop water during the flood.
The community spirit has been amazing all round with people in the neighborhood, the volunteers on site, the spirit of the city, and the spirit of the times. The smiles and helpfulness really spreads quickly and seems sustained and consistent. Animals had it tough too during Katrina and it’s after effects, but many are around helping everyone smile.
It was so such a pleasure to bond this way with fellow Berklee folks who we never would have had a chance otherwise. It all really brings everything back to earth and gets one out of the box we may sometimes find ourselves in. To meet the new homeowners Roshand and Jayson and work side by side with them was also so inspiring, and seeing their new home take shape with a common spiritual thread.
If you have never experienced New Orleans, it really is a must at some point, and maybe give Habitat for Humanity a call too. Thanks again Berklee for this opportunity to help out through Habitat for Humanity, it has changed my life and outlook in many ways.