Today was our first day working with Rebuilding Together: New Orleans. Rebuilding Together is a non-profit organization works with reconstructing the homes of those affected by hurricane Katrina. They primarily focus on the homes of the elderly, those with a disability, and single-parent households.
Rebuilding Together is staffed in part by AmeriCorps volunteers. When we arrived, we were greeted by Devon and Mark, our site leaders. The site we are at is the home of Ms. Sarah Williams. Ms. Sarah (as she likes to be called) has 4 daughters and is currently staying with her father until the house can be completed. She was a victim of contractor fraud, as were many people after the hurricane. Contractors in the area, especially family friends exploited and manipulated the most vulnerable of citizens into giving their money with false promises of restoration. The volunteers began working on her house in August, and the estimated time it will take to complete is until June. The outside is already completed--so our responsibility is to help work on the inside of the house, as well as the yard outside.
When we arrived, we uprooted ELEVEN tree stumps! We also worked with Mark on the inside framework of the home and began work on the deck in the back yard. The yard had to be cleared of the debris that was displaced there during the hurricane.
We had the honor of meeting the wonderful Ms. Sarah Williams today during our lunch break. She came to meet everyone (bringing some delicious cupcakes) and tell us about her home that her and her husband saved up to purchase in the '70's. She told us what her home and neighborhood were like before the hurricane. After Katrina, she arrived to find eight feet of standing water in her home along with no salvageable belongings. She lost everything she owned that she did not have on her back; her picture frames were on the wall without any pictures inside them. She even told us the stories of each of the trees in her yard, everything she owned held meaning and many stories along with them. She spoke of the large pecan tree that shaded the backyard throughout her daughters' childhoods. She was quite an inspiration to us and even called us her heroes. The thought of her being so happy to just be alive after this horrific event will keep us pushing forward this week to get as much completed as possible.