Category Archives: Volunteer Work

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Last Spring Break I was fortunate enough to be able to go down to the Lower Ninth Ward with my best friend and volunteer for the week. (excellent pictures here).

This year I was lucky enough to do the same.

Though, I will say the trip was completely different…

…For one thing, we road tripped

Fort Stockton, TX where we stayed the way there.

It took us 14 hours the first day and 12 the second. But we arrived in Uptown on Saturday night and stayed at my friends cousins’ house.

Uptown is great. It’s small town-y but kind of modern, right by Tulane, a little reminiscent of SLO. Really, really great food too.

Her cousin’s blue house was amazing. He’s a cool guy. Gave us home brewed beer and took us out both to Oak Street Cafe which is a mix of Cajun-California food (run by a San Diegan) and it was great.

We spent Sunday touring Downtown and then worked all week. It was a great trip overall. I feel like I got to know so much more about New Orleans from last time and learned some clutch spots. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back there some time soon.

Please donate to Lower Nine.

I will completely vouch for this organization. Usually I am skeptical about giving to nonprofits because you don’t necessarily know if the money is going to the right places. But they work directly with locals, to provide what residents need. It’s not about fulfilling the interests of government or us volunteers but about helping the people of New Orleans how they need to be helped. It’s an incredible organization and I hope it continues to be supported in the future.

There is still much to be done.

Summer…

I’ve realized I suck at blogging. It’s inevitable, I feel, to be good at blogging, if you truly have no time on your hands (or if you have no hands for that matter). And that is the best description I have had for my summer thus far — no time. But really, I’m currently on vacation and I really wouldn’t have changed a thing. I am loving everything I am doing, and even though it’s a bit hard… I know it’s just a phase in my life I need to push through.

 

Mostly I’ve been working at the restaurant. Averaging 20 or so hours a week. It’s really more a social hobby than actual job, mostly by the fact that I get payed jack shit, and I’m doing more talking than actual table bussing most days. Though I have learned quite a lot… the “communicative -” or “people skills” I have picked up have not only made me slightly out going, but on paper allowed me acceptance to another summer committment…

 

Every Wednesday morning I head to Scripps Green Hospital, overlooking the gorgeous Torrey Pines Golf Course, and visit patients that ironically (and unfortunately) don’t get to enjoy the beautiful surroundings they occupy. I joined a club last spring called Color of Healing. The premise is simple – bring art into hospitals as a kind of “therapy” (I really think of it as just presenting some type of distracting activity) for the patients to engage in while they are undergoing treatment. So far I’ve gotten to visit the Cardiology department, General Surgery floor, and last time I even got to see patients in Oncology. It is truly an awesome program and I love getting to spend some time with them… certainly something relevant to my life right now.

 

As if that weren’t enough, I am also lucky enough to get to live one of my long time dreams: teaching. For Princeton Review the test prep company, I was lucky enough to land a job teaching Ochem. It is certainly different than anything else I’ve really done… I’ve casually tutored but never actually lectured to kids my age. It’s challenging but I love it. The kids can be difficult at times, but I’ve learned that the smoothness of my lectures directly hinges upon my prep time… if I put in the effort it pays off… and thus I shall at least for the remainder of classes.

 

So even more fortunately, I have found some time to have fun. I’ve gotten down to PB a bit, housed some Italian exchange students, and am now FINALLY on a fantastic vacation in Southern Mexico. Much needed, but unfortunately reality is just around the corner!

Spring Break – Lower 9th Ward

Saturday I flew in to LAX, an hour late, though I wish I could have come in 2 days late; I wasn’t ready to leave.

I spent this break in New Orleans, particularly in the Lower Ninth Ward, where I helped restore a house that had been destroyed by Katrina.

Let me preface. Yes, Katrina was almost 6 years ago. The average time to build a house is 4 months. So why then did I walk through neighborhoods and see 1/3 of the houses still unoccupied. A variety of reasons. Many people lost everything, including their job. They don’t have the money, haven’t been able to make up for the income to buy/rebuild a house. Another main reason is that to re-occupy the house or restore the house, the deed must be present. Some of these houses have been passed down from generation to generation, some are hundreds of years old, and through this transgenerational transmission the deeds were lost and there is no proof that a said individual owns their house. And finally, some people never came home.

It is for this reason, that parts of New Orleans look like Katrina hit 6 months ago, rather than 6 years ago.

 

It was through the Lowernine that I had the privilege of going down to New Orleans to work. My best friend spent last break working there and talked to me about coming with her again this time. It was by far one of the best experiences of my life. Not only did I get to spend a day seeing the city, walking down Decatur and Bourbon,

 

 

but I got to spend 5 days in the real city, the real New Orleans- The Lower Ninth Ward. This is New Orleans. You go to the French, and it’s all tourists, well and a few bartenders and prostitutes. But to see the people, it was here.

The pictures certainly cannot attest to the degree of beauty I saw there. Neither can they show the devastation that still plagues this ward, and many others. I stood on the levee that broke. I stared at the the concrete wall, build back up, with exactly the same engineering as previously employed.

We walked 4 miles every day to work. Then around to see other neighborhoods. As I said, no matter where you go there are still many houses boarded up, uninhibited, with a giant spray painted X depicting when the house was inspected, by whom, and the number of bodies found.

I still cannot believe this happened 6 years ago.

That said, I had some of the most ridiculously fun times here with my best friend.

We got to work on the house that she had framed a year ago, but this time we were putting up sheathing underneath. Quite an adventure. I do say after 40 hours with someone under a house, where there really isn’t much to do but sheath, you really get to know someone.

I’m honestly surprised our team leader Justin didn’t murder us after day 2. I must say, Tawna brings out the most interesting side of me.

Although the $100 that went to room and board was really only supposed to cover sandwiches and assorted donated food from local vendors, we got pretty lucky. One of the permanent workers brought over a bag of craw fish.

Heaven.

I love Louisiana.

While I do a lot of volunteer work, I particularly enjoyed this week. This was for a few reasons.

1. It was the most hands-on I have ever gotten to be on a volunteer project. I legitimately spent almost 40 hours cutting, screwing and taping.

2. I met the people in the neighborhood. I met Deborah, who’s house we were restoring. I got to see their gratitude for what we were doing. LowerNine is truly making a difference down in the 9th ward.

3. It was really laid back. It makes life less stressful (:

4. I got to spend time giving back with my best friend ever. And meet some pretty cool new friend as well (:

Oh the craw fish.

But on a serious note…

 

I really encourage you to donate the The Lower Nine if you have the ability. Just $35 can sponsor a volunteer for a day. And I will personally guarantee that your money is going to supplies and good for the people as well as food, electricity, water and gas for the house that they volunteers stay in while they work. The head of the community center down in the lower 9th told me that 75% of the restoration from Katrina has been done purely by volunteers. Please, help out (:

Philanthropy Success!

I organized a Pi Phi blood drive today on campus. Despite my initial worries about getting girls to come out, we did amazing. Yes, this was probably in part because if they didn’t come they cant go to formal ha. But still, I mean we filled up ALL the bags they had. Yes, I repeat, we had to stop the blood drive short because they ran out of bags. Pi Phi: 1, Red Cross: 0. I even gave blood, which was much more of a success that in High School when I gave blood and walked out of the van only to hit the ground due to blood loss ha. Yep, pretty much the only time I have ever passed out in my life.

A lot of people don’t realize how important it is to give blood, but I learned a few things today:

1) Every unit counts — Someone getting blood transfusion from cancer will need 8 units a week… for a long time…

2) Gun shot wounds need 50 units… so you are either really helping out a victim, or indirectly eating up tax dollars when your blood saves a criminal who then gets to stand trial for felony charges… hmm…. let’s be optimistic.

3) They do not sell the blood to the hospitals (one of our OWN pi phi girls was running around telling people that. Great way to get people to donate blood. {fail}).

Either way it was a great success and I feel very accomplished. But enough procrastinating, back to studying!

 

Some of our girls by the Blood Mobile (Yes, when you donate tiger blood you are winning...)