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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

NOLA Winter Break Trip

While driving around Mid City and the Ninth Ward in New Orleans this winter break, I was somewhat surprised to see how many homes still had inspection markings from over 5 years ago. I was more surprised, however, to find that many of these marked homes had not only been rebuilt inside, but were currently occupied. The owners had chosen to leave the markings so they could memorialize the devastation of Hurricane Katrina while the rebuilding effort around them remains unfinished. The people of New Orleans will not rest until the city has been restored, and Fordham DRN returns every year to help them with that process.

Inspection markings found on many of the homes devastated by Katrina

I spent the week with a small group working on a home in Mid City. Our delightfully unique and informative "project manager" Jim informed us that this particular type of house is common in the New Orleans area and is called a "Shotgun House." They are so named, we were told, because a person could stand in the very back room of the house and use a shotgun to shoot an intruder in the front (imagine a railroad apartment with taller ceilings and a more colorful name). We spent several days mudding, painting, climbing ladders, building walls, and quizzing Jim about New Orleans culture. The manual labor was taxing, but incredibly rewarding. After only 4 days, the mark we left was undeniable: what began as a gutted, uninhabitable house was beginning to look like a home.

In front of our Shotgun House!

New Orleans is a city full of life, despite the unbelievable tragedies that it has endured in the last few years. Everyone we met during the week was selflessly devoted to rebuilding the city and returning it to its former glory. This devotion, however, would mean nothing without the continued efforts of volunteers. Many thanks to Phoenix of New Orleans for fostering this volunteerism and to Fordham DRN for making this trip possible.

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