Hello from hot and humid New Orleans! We just completed our last day on the work site with Habitat for Humanity. Time flies when you’re hammering nails!
When I told my family and friends back home that I was going to New Orleans as a part of a group of Berklee volunteers to build houses with Habitat for Humanity, they were very happy for me, but they also had no idea that things were Continue reading
Our Gracenote NOLA2015 trip has been a whirlwind combination of work and play that always includes cooperation and the agreement of the group.
All tasks and decisions from the best way to measure and cut (with a circular saw) then hammer together two pieces of 6x10s and blue insulating foam to make a “sandwich” header for an interior door frame to the other extreme—and pleasure—what restaurant to pick or what dive bar to have a pre-dinner $2 cocktail….and the ultimate: where to go for more amazing live music.
We have both had the good fortune to meet many of the neighbors on America Avenue in East New Orleans and also to see what poverty looks like. The juxtaposition of our privilege and the overall despair of a neighborhood with many dilapidated homes waiting to be razed is not lost on us. The residents have been very friendly, thanking us, blessing us, stopping to chat with their dog, cat, or (yes!) horse and also working alongside us and the AmeriCorps VISTA**, Habitat New Orleans, and NCCC volunteers. We, as Gracenotes volunteers, are not only individually volunteering to represent Berklee College, but we are also ambassadors helping to spread the word about Habitat and also the good work being done by AmeriCorps VISTA and its many offshoots. One of the soon-to-be new homeowners had never heard of this program or knew of this very positive government initiative. She, her name is Conchetta, was curious and amazed to hear that a young person could receive $5000 toward their college education after enrolling and serving as a community service volunteer for 10 months….in locations all over the USA. How often do we hear about this type of positive government program? Not often enough, wouldn’t you say? That is why there is no substitute for word-of-mouth and the experiential part of “doing”. Yes, we now have instant messaging, email, texting, tweeting, skype and a million other ways to share information but wouldn’t you agree that the best way is talking to each other about something you experienced—person to person, heart to heart.
**Did you know President John F. Kennedy started the idea for VISTA (Volunteers In Service to America) as a national volunteer service program to fight poverty and as a domestic version of the Peace Corps? During the Clinton administration it was combined with the newly created AmeriCorps program, which is a division of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). There are currently 5000 AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers in over 1000 projects across the USA. New programs of the umbrella group CNCS now include Senior Corps which bundled together the Foster Grandparents, RSVP–Retired and Senior Volunteer Program– and the Senior Companions program.
It’s not always easy to get a feel for a city, especially one as multifaceted as New Orleans. With all of the focus on the raucous aspects of the French Quarter, it’s difficult to see the real NOLA. It hit me while doing laundry in the J&M Studios building (now a laundromat) that Ray Charles used in the early 1950’s to spark the beginnings of rock and roll … New Orleans is of critical importance to the cultural and musical history.
What an awesome and full couple of days! I am completely enthralled with the vibrancy of New Orleans; from the people, to the music and to the food. Oh the food! Being here with such an amazing team of fellow Berklee faculty and staff members makes it that much better too. Continue reading