Wednesday, March 19, 2008


When Sharon pulled me inside to take a minute to blog, I was washing paintbrushes. I was washing paintbrushes, periodically pulling my hands out of the dirty water to throw a ball for the dog that lives at our site, dodging other volunteers as they smeared paint on each other's arms and noses, and of course, enjoying the weather.

That's a long list of things for just one sentence, but to break it up would not do justice to the fact that we are so very busy. There are moments of waiting for instructions and standing in line for street trolleys, but there are just as many flourishes of quick labor to get one more wall done before we meet with someone from the community, and hurried sandwiches in the mid-afternoon so we can finish up our job before heading off to see how the hurricane and its aftermath have had different effects on different parts of the city.

Our group, from First Street, also met up with other Hamline volunteers today. We came from our various sites around the city for a tour of the levies that broke during the storm, led by a professor from Tulane. He left us speechless. With this being my first time in the Crescent City, I have been eager to experience as much as I can, from lively jazz and funk shows to solemn strolls in the Lower Ninth Ward.

But, with this panoramic view of the city comes the profound, first-hand realization that along with the physical damage caused by the storm, there is a slew of intense, systemic problems that are plaguing low-income residential areas. Predominantly communities of color, like the one where we are volunteering, are appreciative of our help, but are also suffering on levels greater than we are currently prepared to address. The list of injustices that need to be addressed seems to get longer every day, but for now, I'm heading back to the paintbrushes.

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