Friday, March 21, 2008

Friday in Biloxi

Sorry I haven't gotten to this in the past few days. We've been very busy. Wednesday was a day of service learning. We put on an appreciation luncheon for teachers at an elementary school in Gulfport. We also did projects around the school. In the afternoon we went to a Boys/Girls Club and helped with homework and art projects.

There was a crawfish boil on the beach in the evening, but crawfish gross me out so I stayed behind.

Thursday we were split again doing construction (I can now probably do drywall in my sleep) and working to save osprey. We also got a chance to speak with teachers who went through Katrina and how it is affecting children here.

They said it took about a year for some of the reaction to show. One teacher said since there were no parks for 3-4 year olds at the time many of them don't know how to skip or run... they didn't have any place to go. That helped us understand why saving parks is very important. Another teacher mentioned teens are living in crammed trailers with no quiet place to do homework, etc. One student he mentioned talked about burying the dead after the storm... not those killed in the storm... but those whose graves had been washed away.

We've heard many stories about people still waiting for their homes to be repaired to rebuild. Many are moving out of the FEMA trailers because they are not safe.

I hope we can all be ambassadors to remind people the work down here is not done. It will be interesting to hear from the other Xavier groups working in the area and in New Orleans.

Today we're splitting up again working to help feed the homeless, the volunteers and do work around Hands On. Tonight we cook dinner for the group. There is also a dance party and then we hit the road back to Cincinnati where I see it is in the 40s!!

We did get many texts on the game and Emma called her dad to get a play by play of the last minute. We also got a play by play of the last minute of the Duke game from Heide's dad.

This has been a very eye opening experience and has made me think about a lot of things... especially how fortunate many of us are to have a home, friends and family.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Day Two AB in Biloxi

Today's service was a bit different. We worked with some people from Americorps to help save live oak trees. It involved what's called vertical munching and that means using power tools!! We used an ager to deep a foot-deep hole and then filled it with much and compost. It will help nurish the trees that are suffocating from being in the packed down earth.
We also got to see examples of trees that had been treated and are now doing much better. We also got a tour of Biloxi and learned more about the challenges the city still faces. One of the stops along the way was the Katrina memorial.
A great part of AB is the nightly reflection, thinking about what we've done and what it means. It's great to hear the students perspective of this trip and how it is touching their lives.
The group is getting along very well, a lot of laughter and smiles all the time. Everyone is eager to try new things to help out.
Tomorrow we head to a school to help with a teachers appreciation lunch and art projects with the kids.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The first day was off to a late start. A few miscues on scheduleing from Hands On and we missed the boat to the island. However, six AB members were able to catch another boat where they battled rough waters for an hour and a half to get to an island half an hour away. They worked to save birds affected by the storm.
The rest of us headed into Biloxi and spent the day drywalling, installing insulation and other construction work on a new home to replace one lost in the storm.
Patti, a Hands On worker, told us that in Mississippi alone last year they built 3,600 new homes. They need to build 36,000 more.... that is 10 years of work... not to mention the business, roads, churches and schools.
Tomorrow we head to Turkey Creek... wonder what that will be about.
It is 6:45 a.m. on Monday and we are getting ready to start our first day of service. Yesterday we spent the day in New Orleans. It was wonderful to see the French Quarter, Jackson Square and Cafe DuMond, packed!! There were people everywhere. (We even ran into another XU AB group) I remember seeing Jackson Square full of water during Hurricane Katrina.
That was not the case driving into New Orleans. For miles before we entered the city, even from the highway, we could see homes that had been destroyed and not repaired, blown over trees, vacant lots scattered with debria, downed fences, repairing going on on older buildings... there was also lots of evidence of new buildings.
One member of our group was in New Orleans on AB last year. She said she saw some improvement, but there is still much more to be done... and so we begin our chance to help.
Today Xavier is headed for the Gulf Coast Islands to help with beach/animal conservation. Everyone is excited, though already tired, still all 175 people here are starting to stumbled out of the sleeping bags (which now cover the floor of the loft) and bunks to get ready for what every assignment they might have.
I will post more later and see if one of the students would like to post as well... in the meantime GO X!!! #3 Seed!!!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

We have made it to Biloxi. Took about 13 hours. Will drove the entire way!! We are staying at a large metal building behind a church. It has a big open room for meals, meetings, etc. and the students stay in the lofts above the room. It is all very open, dorm room style. There are no lights in the loft so the flashlights come in handy. Many other students are camping out side. They've come from Wyoming, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

There is one men's bathroom, one women's bathroom and 4 outdoor showers for everyone!! About 175 total. The students love it. For me it was a bit of an adjustment but after finding a good airmatress to sleep on I'm set... as it says on the wall as you enter this building... it's NOT about you!

Today is a free day. We will travel to New Orleans and then maybe the beach. Our work starts tomorrow at 7am. We are scheduled to go to the Gulf Coast Islands but not sure what work we will do. Every day we will do something different. One day we'll work here cleaning, another working in what we think is a bird sancutary and one day with school children.

The weather is beautiful and it is hard to believe this area was once so devastated but you still see bits and pieces of evidence everywhere in blown over trees, empty lots scattered with debris and lots of NEW buildings, which I think replaced the old.

That's it for today.