I was one of the 21 students that Regis Jesuit High School sent on their annual mission trip to New Orleans during service project season. This particular project stuck out to me because it called attention to the needs of a still marginalized population that few people consider anymore; victims of the 2005 hurricane Katrina.
Our nesting place was at a former church/school named “Camp Restore”. We met interns from Germany – Sophia, Eva Maria, Yannik, and Max – who we would soon join at the service sites. After splitting into smaller groups, we spent the two weeks alternating between our main construction site and various other places (food pantries, schools, gardens, etc.).
Some of my favorite days were the food pantry days because it reminded me of my site from last year at Fr. Woody’s Haven of Hope shelter… I’m also just bad with children and heavy lifting. Both the staff and the guests at Love in Action treated me like I was a part of their family, giving me the best first impression of southern hospitality I could have ever wished for. Every passing guest gave me such good conversation to the point it didn’t feel like I was the one serving them. I would hear stories about their experiences at other food pantries, gossip about some of the staff, jokes making fun of my fashion, the whole of it. The environment there is so unbelievably tight-knit!
Over the weekend, our chaperones took us exploring the city. We first drove to see the levees and the Lower 9th Ward, while my car listened to a podcast interviewing its residents and their experiences getting the worst of Katrina. We came across a monument that represented the height of the waters compared to the average home, and the towers came up to 10 feet. On a lighter note, our groups then went on to exploring the French Quarter. My friends and I saw a handful of parades, street performances, and psychics scattered throughout the place. We even visited a bookstore literally made of books! Then we ended the day at Cafe du Monde for their famous beignets.
Overall, I miss New Orleans. I miss the people, the culture, the history, everything about it. I hope the upcoming Regis Jesuit NOLA groups have as great of an experience. My group has been joking about going for a visit over spring break but one can only dream, right?