Helping Rebuild New Orleans

by Taylor M ’09

In this project I took a trip to New Orleans with a program called National Student Leadership Conference (NSLC). One of my counselors told us to always smile and to ask the New Orleans citizens about their experience with Hurricane Katrina because they need to know that things will get better.
When we got to the house everyone was surprised at how bad the whole neighborhood looked, there were houses knocked down, there was a small jet in someone’s backyard, there was mud and debris everywhere. My group had about 17 people in it and we worked on a house, owned by the Grimilliones. We did demolition work on the house, tearing off the roof, tearing off the linoleum siding, taking out insulation, ripping nails out the woodwork, chipping cement off of bricks so they can be reused. We moved wood and shoveled out mud from their house, and we took out windows.             At another house we took down the shed in the back yard, and we took apart a large work bench, we took down some more insulation and electrical wires. Then we had to shovel out more dirt and mud that was build up around the house from the Hurricane. There was also an area where a fence had fallen down so my group had to take the wooden fence apart and shovel out the dirt that was under it.
When I went to New Orleans I had hoped to help a family that was affected by hurricane Katrina. I wanted to actually see what happened to the area and how the hurricane affected the people living in New Orleans. When Hurricane Katrina happened I saw on the news the water over people’s roofs, people swimming through dark water. I saw the families separated and people walking on the parkway to get to the Superdome. There were people who had nothing more than the clothes on their back. When all of this happened I told myself that I wanted to go down and help New Orleans.
Through this activity I learned that no matter what happens, things will get better. When I went down there I saw people who were still able to smile even though they were living in trailer parks because they could not go home. Their smiles were what made me want to help even more. I wanted to go down and give families hope that things will get better and instead the family I helped gave me hope. They shared their experience with us, they cried with us, and they touched my heart. Just from being in New Orleans for a week, I learned a lot about the people who lived there. To this day I find it amazing that they can still smile and they can still go back to work and walk around their city after the traumatic events they have gone through. I have heard many stories of what has happened to these citizens, all of them sad and unimaginable.
I can apply this to many life situations partly because this just let me know not to take what I have for granted because it can all be gone tomorrow. For instance my education should be valued because many kids did not have a school to go back to, and when I went down there I saw an enormous school but it was closed down. I found it amazing that a school that big would be closed because there must have been so many kids and teenagers who attended that school and now they have to go other places to get an education. Also Mrs. Grimilliones told us that when she left she did not expect the damage to be that bad and she only took blankets and a few changes of clothes, but she did not take any pictures with her so all of her visual memories were gone. Even to today I am still amazed at how the people of New Orleans were able to smile and continue to live their lives the way they use to.

If you are interested in finding out more about this program, you can email Taylor:

Also check out the programs that helped set this program up:

National Relief Network

National Student Leadership Conference



By Mr. Lakhaney

TOK Teacher

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