Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Question of Why

So this is the musings of a reflective and slightly frustrated volunteer here in the Big Easy-where the rebuilding of it hasn't been so easy...Tonight we had a meeting where we reflected on what made us happy and what frustrated us. What frustrated me the most personally, was the fact that I cant do enough. I just cant. I dont have enough hands to do it all nor enough time in the day to get it all done. I have been here at the wonderful Hands On organization for 5 days and have worked for 3 of those days and I feel like I havn't done enough to help- that I have just been (metaphorically speaking) sitting on my bum. I havn't done enough in that I can't help the people that need it; I can't help them with their pain and hardship so that they can live without worrying about how much longer they can have the FEMA trailer-that is if they even have one-or how they are going to pay the bills or get the insurance money to help them rebuild or move on or even helping them with the courage to pick up the pieces of their lives and their past and move on.
The past few days I have helped out with gutting a house and painting/working on murals. The house that we gutted (and are almost done with) was for a man who was from Colorado and bought the house from a woman who had lived her whole 58 years in that house with 3 generations of family and priceless memories. It was hard gutting that house-I mean think- I'm tearing down the last vestiges of her home, her past and I couldn't understand how I was helping out-I was destroying what little was left from Katrina and the flooding. And in our reflection, other people's sentiments echoed mine-we all didn't see the connection between doing something so insignificant like being a hall monitor during standarize testing at a local school, could make such a postive impact-so much so that everyone thanks us-whether they verbalize it or not, and its not just for the people that we did the volunteer work for. It was also complete strangers; kids, neighbors, as well as the people we meet at the local "Hamline hangout" spot outside of Walgreens. So despite our frustrations, we do see the hope and the passion and the community feel that is (not of) New Orleans in the smiles, tears (happy tears/ tears of gratitude) and the genuine heartfelt "Hi, How are ya?" of the people on the sidewalks to the people that we clean up a yard full of debris for. So I leave you to some of the questions that has been floating amongst us for the past few days.
Why is there not enough people to help out? Why is it that it is mostly college (and some highschool) students that is helping to rebuild New Orleans? (granted it is a life lesson and gives great satisfaction in helping out a fellow human being) Why is it that it takes a disaster to make people help each other out? Why is there all this hoopla of who is to blame instead of helping the people who need it? Why is there nothing on the news about New Orleans and the help it needs? Why are the African-American and the Asian-American community of New Orleans not being helped like they should? (and by that I mean why is there such a socio-economic racism as well as ethnic racism among people) Why isn't the government not really helping out? Why is it taking so long for New Orleans to recover? Why are people still having to live in FEMA trailers when they should be back on their feet? Why are the people who were just able to move into their FEMA trailer have to return it so soon? Why is this not only a natural disaster but also a man-made disaster? and I want to know why there are no answers to these questions and more. Why there even has to be these questions-and with no answers nonetheless. I mean can you answer them?....

~Annamarie Hebdon

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