This is my fourth trip down to New Orleans, following Hurricane Katrina - this year has been a lot like previous trips, but also very different from any trip before. A couple days ago, a student wondered aloud, what it must feel like to live in the conditions that several do in New Orleans, well yesterday, a few students in our group had an opportunity to see some of the frustration of a New Orleans native. The person's whose house we are working on, was very vocal about how much she appreciates the help of volunteers, but also shared with us her frustration. She has not received help from the Road Home program, is still fighting to get full payments of insurance, has been taken advantage of by electricians and contractors, on top of losing everything she built and acquired over the last 30 years. I could feel her frustration and those of us, who heard her story, were left speechless, but motivated to work even harder to do whatever we can to help her.
There is something that I have heard during this trip, from the people of New Orleans, that I am still not sure how to respond to. Many people, have talked about plans and actions being taken so that if something similar to Hurricane Katrina happens in the future, that they will be able to take care of themselves and their communities. While this is great, it is underscored with the fact that these individuals, groups and communities - feel that it is necessary because they can not depend on anyone else. It is as if they can not trust or rely upon (some) community organizations, community leaders, and especially not the government (local, state and national) to come to their assistance during their times of need.
I am amazed at the advancements of individual groups - but sad that the smaller groups do not feel as full members of the larger community.