January 14, 2011

“I begin to realize that the food we offer is not the be-all and end-all of what we can offer.”

Throughout this trip, I have been so focused on work, work, and work, that I forgot the reason why I enjoyed this course so much last year. I became so encapsulated in what I could do to help, that I forgot how important is was to be a team player. “Two heads are better than one.” Sometimes I forget that. Sometimes I put so much focus on my own willingness to learn in my own special way, that I forget to open my eyes and let experiences come as they come. I put myself out there in hopes of catching attention that can spark conversation, but I end up with silence.

I am slightly offended at first but remember, “Seek to understand before you ask to be understood. ”

This speaks to my heart. I forgot how much willpower it takes to open up and be real with strangers. I forgot how a super extroverted personality can come off as too threatening. I was and have been so ready to step up to the plate, that I disregard how significant being a fly on the wall can be. Observing from the outside as well as engaging in every opportunity I am given can further enhance my learning and understand of my community.

This epiphany came to me as I was journaling. Sometimes my deepest thoughts come out while I am writing. When I can see on paper how I am feeling, I begin to look deeper into why I feel the way I do and what provokes me to feel that way. I further note how selfish I can seem on paper.

Me, me, me…

That’s not what it is about! When I first came on the trip, I was so happy and overwhelmed by everything, I just wanted a buddy to be with me all the time and get to know  everyone because we were all sharing similar experiences. As I reflect on this week though, I note how out of touch with myself I have become. Sometimes in my quest to gain of knowledge and wisdom I push aside such great understanding of life that others can provide for me. I push them away in an attempt to create clarity for myself.

When I sit back and recognize this, I change. My thoughts and feelings manifest into guilt and shame. This feeling that I have let down my classmates. I have become selfish.

Over these last few days in New Orleans, I hope to better reach out and seek to understand my classmates, and my friends. Because they are what truly make the trip unforgettable.

With Deep Gratitude & Appreciation,



Treading A Painful Past

January 14, 2011

The efforts that have been made in the last five years are numerous but New Orleans’ pain and rummage still peep out from eerie neighborhoods and wind-blown shutters. Rusty metal roof sheets and concrete studs are left behind around homes perimeters from which pillars stood holding foundations of families full of life. The rubble  reminds us everyday that though the worst is over, the thoughts still remain. Hurricane Katrina is hardly referred to. ”The Storm,’ as it is dubbed, will never be forgotten. As outsiders looking in, we see the scarring remains she has left behind as a cry of New Orleanians for help, solace, hope, and happiness in the lives of the people she spared. Together we start making a difference.


Maria Streegan Cruz

Information About Our Rebuilding Project and Homeowner

January 14, 2011

The following biography portrays the homeowner and her story. This is the house we have been working on this week; happily, this house was at the end of the rebuilding process and should be turned over to the homeowner very soon!

Biography – Ruthie Lee Jones

Back in New Orleans

January 14, 2011

For the third time, the interterm version of LEAD 325 (a leadership experiential learning laboratory for the Leadership Studies Program in the College of Educational Studies), in conjunction with the Department of Student & Campus Life’s civic engagement initiatives, is exploring the concept of leadership through the lense of Hurricane Katrina.  A key component of this course is our partnership with Rebuilding Together New Orleans to provide a nine-day service-learning experience focused on the rebuilding efforts in New Orleans.

Throughout the trip, students are spending four days assisting with rebuilding one of countless homes damaged during Hurricane Katrina more than five years ago; they are also involved in daily class sessions learning about the complex issues associated with this catastrophe while reflecting on their experience.  Students have been able to take a tour of the areas affected by the storm, talk with Jonathan Johnson (an alumnus of Chapman University, who lives in New Orleans and serves as a member of Teach for America), and spend some time with  Michael Blum, the Arnold Early Career Professor in Earth and Ecological Science at Tulane University discussing the Gulf oil spill.  This blog will help document some of the students’ experiences.

It was Never about Me

January 16, 2010

In the past 6 days I’ve experienced a world wind of experiences ranging from touring an entire city, rich in cultural history, to building a ramp for an elderly handicapped resident of  New Orleans.  I’ve seen homes damaged by a natural disaster which occured over 4 years ago, yet it looks as if its happened just last week.  I’ve seen homes built by Brad Pitt’s organization “Make it Right” that seem as if they belong in the Hollywood Hills, interestingly enough, with grass purposely growing on the roofs.  I’ve seen musicians on the streets of the French Quarter and tasted all types of authentic New Orlean’s.  But, what will resonate with me the most are the personal stories heard from the traumatic storm that occurred.  This also includes the hardships people incurred and still deal with today.  I could only imagine still living in Houston, Texas, 4 years after my home was devastated because I was not allotted a ticket back home.  The sorrow still  pervades the streets even in the midst of southern hospitality and immense kindness.  

It’s been an eye-opening experience that has caused me to re-think all I’ve learned, all I’ve witnessed, and even my future goals I have set for my life.  This trip was not about me, but about those I was here to serve and they have impacted my life and mind-set so much that I couldn’t imagine living a life that was not dedicated to the service of enriching humanity. 

Je T’aime Swindell, 2010

You’ll Never Know

January 16, 2010

You’ll never know what it feels like to miss home til you are away.

You’ll never know what it feels like to lose a family member while you are away from home and not be able to attend the services.

You’ll never know what it is like to have friends you miss when you are surrounded by strangers.

You’ll never know what it feels like to go out every night and see more than you could ever explain.

You’ll never know what it feels like to be part of a community until you’ve seen New Orleans.

You’ll never know the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and how it broke down homes and families.

You’ll  never know what its like to rebuild your home from scratch and feel like its going to take forever.

Thats okay, you don’t have to.

This is my experience.

This is what I’ve seen, felt, and cherished deeply about being in a city such as New Orleans.

Don’t worry about me. I’m going to be okay.

Don’t worry about the people of New Orleans, they are going to make it.

Worry about the help.

Worry about the support.

Worry about what you can do to help.

Only then, will you know.

-Lil’ Bo

Some Photos from Ms. Alice’s Rebuild Project

January 16, 2010

There are far too many pictures to upload to this blog right now, but here are a few photos from Ms. Alice’s rebuild project. They show some of the “before” and “after”. Ms. Alice’s house has been a two-year rebuild project for Rebuilding Together; every time it has been “ready”, they discovered something else that needed to be worked on. However, Ms. Alice gave us a tour of her house and it looks great! This house belonged to her parents and has been such an important part of her family since she lived in it as a little girl. As she was giving us the tour she was very excited to share that her family moved back into this house just before Christmas. The house still had no heat and there were many things still being worked on, but she said it was just too important for her family to have Christmas dinner together in the house…one of countless reminders we have all had this week about the importance of “home” and how significant the loss of a home can be. There are so many that still need to be rebuilt…almost 5 years after Katrina…a week is not enough! The students at this house have had such an incredible time working very hard in trying to get this house to be completed…finally. It is almost there!

Our Rebuild Projects

January 16, 2010

The following biographies portray the homeowners and their stories. These are the two houses we have been working on this week; each house is in a different phase of the rebuilding process.

Our Shelter

January 16, 2010

While in New Orleans we have been staying at the St. Jude Rebuilds Community Center. While the accommodations are far from those in a hotel, the staff here has been welcoming and wonderful! The shelter, which was intentionally chosen to add one more element to our experience, has not only given us a place to stay for our time in New Orleans, it has given us the opportunity to grow closer as a group.

The shelter serves as a soup kitchen each day, providing meals to many people who are homeless. Those meals are distributed starting at 7:30am, so every morning our group needs to be awake, shower, eat breakfast, pack our brown-bag lunches, and be out of the community center main room by that point. For most of the week we have been sharing the shelter with a large group of high school students from Arizona doing a senior project here.

The beds are triple-layered bunks in large dormitory-style rooms. They are seperated by men and women, and each room can easily accommodate up to 30-40 people. Each night, upon our return from the rebuild sites, we eat a community dinner prepared by the cooks at the shelter, have a bit of free time, hold an hour-long class session (where discussions are facilitated by different students each night), watch a portion of the documentary “When the Levees Broke”, and then respond to specific journal prompts chosen for each day. Each day is long and tiring, but produces some of the most inspired, critical, and memorable conversations I’ve heard…and our setting just adds to that.

The students in this class have been so positive, motivated, and energetic this entire week, getting more so as each day has gone on — completely defying the “normal” effects of early mornings, long days, hard work, and very minimal accommodations. We talk about the situation in New Orleans being about more than Hurricane Katrina; being about our society, about people and issues being too easily overlooked or forgotten about…but talking about it, of course, cannot begin to compare with experiencing a different aspect of life – even if just for a week. Our shelter has been more than a place we’ve called home this week…it’s been a subtle, yet important, component of this learning experience.

A New Beginning

January 15, 2010

I’ve been here 6 days and I have fallen more in love with this city than I had ever expected. The people, the culture, and the community were all so welcoming and different. There is such diversity in who lives here and what music plays in the streets…Oh yeah, music is playing in the street. How cool is that? Black, brown, white, all colors of people are welcome. The beauty of New Orleans is that it is one giant community. Everyone is somehow connected to someone else in some fascinating way. Our tour guide Barbara R. and the bus driver Jackie had the same last name.  They had joked that there was some connection in family ties early in history. Regardless of whether they were related or not, they had this bond that was so warm and sincere.

I’m having the time of my life. For someone who has never been farther than 100 miles from home, it feels great to be independent in a city such as New Orleans. I love it! This community makes me feel secure and happy to be alive and free. They say in New Orleans to “Let the good times roll!” Believe it!! You will truly enjoy it like I do!

Stay free and love life,

Jimbo Lozano Jr.

Sophomore at Chapman University