During spring break 2013, 22 students and a team from Campus Ministry journeyed to New Orleans. Enjoy a student perspective from Asia Alvarado ’13 and an alumni/staff perspective from Kathleen Kelly ’94.
From Asia Alvarado ’13:
“Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other.”
If there is one word I would use to describe my experiences on the New Orleans service trip for Spring Break 2013, it would be gratitude. I speak on behalf of the other 22 students who went when I say it was one of the most humbling experiences. Even though we were there to help other people, they seemed to be always serving us. I can now attest that southern hospitality is real. My favorite and most memorable moments were the thank you’s from everyone we met.
Some of the things we got to do were: gardening for schools (they have a grotto just like ours here at Mater Dei), visiting a nursing home, and revamping a thrift shop at City of Hope. Sometimes it would seem as if we weren’t doing enough; we were only doing normal everyday tasks, not helping right at the places of Katrina’s impact. However, we were reminded by the grateful hearts of those people who told us that when we continued to help we gave them hope. Without us, many of these simple tasks would not have been done.
Getting to experience the culture was also exciting and fun. Many of us tasted southern foods such as beignets, gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish, and even alligator. Everyone we met from our hosts to the numerous people we worked for made us feel truly at home and welcome from the moment we got there. By the end of the week, I did feel like we made a difference in many people’s lives because doing good for others is always a chain reaction. It was an all-around great experience and I came back with new friends and a deeper gratitude for everything with which I am blessed.
From Kathleen Kelly ’94, Director of Alumni Relations:
It’s hard to believe that it has been eight years since the devastating occurrence of Hurricane Katrina. I have been blessed to travel to NOLA six times with our Campus Ministry team and a number of awesome MD students to serve the people affected by Hurricane Katrina. The first trip for me was in the spring of 2007. The change between that trip and our most recent one during Spring Break 2013, was thankfully, very noticeable. Over the course of our visits the type of work has changed considerably, from the hard core work of gutting homes and pulling up flooring to simpler tasks of organization and gardening. The past couple years I’ve asked myself the question, “Why do we continue to go, when it seems the work we do could just as easily be done locally?” That question was answered over and over on this trip when speaking directly to the people of New Orleans. Each one spoke specifically of the hope that our group continues to bring to the area. The FEMA trailers are gone and many folks have moved back into their homes, but the rebuilding is not fully complete. The destruction of Hurricane Katrina can still be seen when you drive through various areas of the city and it can certainly still be felt when you speak to the people that lived through it. Although we may not be knee deep in construction or up to our elbows in debris, the work done by our students on these continued trips has a huge impact on the area and the people.
We receive countless thank you’s while in NOLA, but really, we should be the ones staying thank you. Thank you for the hospitality, and for reminding us that in a short time, with just a handful of people, a little really goes a long way. This trip is just once a year, and I hope to continue going, but it is also a very good reminder that little things can be done right here in our own community. Whether it’s an hour a week or even an hour a month, any amount of time given in service to others is greatly appreciated and ends up being just as beneficial to the giver as the receiver.