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Working for lowernine.org, I enjoyed being able to try all different kinds of jobs.  Although I only worked at one house, I was able to paint, sand, learn how to use a jigsaw, and do tons of other things.

The image that stands out the most to me from my experience is this abandoned house that had full patches of grass growing on top of it and down the sides. It showed me just how little some parts of the Lower nine had been touched since Katrina.

I’ll never forget how kind and welcoming the people were.  Whenever residents saw us wearing our volunteer shirts, they would wave or honk their car horns as they drove by

The one image that always comes to my mind when I think about last July was playing football with Uncle Carl's nephews.  I remember looking back at the house we’d been working on.  Uncle Carl and the other volunteers were watching us and smiling and behind them was an almost finished home.

The image that stands out most in my mind is Darren’s face after he finished the porch.  He was so proud of his work and could not stop grinning.  Instead of moving onto another project, he just stood on his ladder beaming with joy. I am glad to know he still gets happy after finishing a porch because he has been there for so long.

In New Orleans, I stopped thinking about myself and started thinking about what’s best for the people around me.  You realize you can make a difference.

Whenever I think of New Orleans, I always think of the area around the intersection of Tupelo and St. Claude.  It's the center of all of my experiences in New Orleans.  It's where I go by every single day, and I seem to love it more and more each time I pass by it.
Everyone -- whether a resident or a volunteer -- has a story, and everyone has such incredible things to share.  As cliché as it may sound, volunteering in New Orleans is truly a life-changing experience.
The woman who was assigned to our group was an awesome person. Her dedication to helping complete the rebuilding project inspired us. Not only did this woman direct and motivate us in our work, but she also added a new layer to the experience of volunteering in New Orleans.

The one moment that has been at the forefront of my mind since the trip is on the last day of work, when Mrs. Natalie and her children and grandchildren thanked us by getting a tub of crawfish and corn for us to all share on the porch of her work-in-progress home.  In the still-frame image that I can remember so clearly, everyone looks so happy and content.  The crawfish may have been unbelievable, but the hospitality and warmth that Mrs. Natalie and her family showed us made volunteering one of the most fun and rewarding things I have ever done.

I always find myself thinking about the ride in the vans from the lowernine.org house to the work site.  People would stop and stare.  They’d offer a friendly hello and smile that was simply sensational.  You’d never see that in the suburbs where I live.

What would I say to someone who was thinking about volunteering?  I'd tell them the truth, that it’s life-altering it truly was. It gives you perspective on what life is really about and how people should be more appreciative of everything they have.


Many, many things on the trip surprised me, but what I really did not expect was the permanent effort of the people in New Orleans and the Lower Ninth Ward to restore the entire area to a pre-Katrina state.  Every time I went to lowernine.org and saw the volunteers living there, I would hear amazing stories about their lives and experiences while working in New Orleans.  The power that they seemed to have and the energy and will that they had is to me what made them all so successful and such amazing role models to me and for anyone trying to get involved and help.

Thank you for this experience.  Thank you to everyone in New Orleans.  Every person left an impression that stays with me now in all my decisions.  I would be lucky to have another experience like it!

If I was trying to convince friends to go on the trip, I would most likely tell them about how much it changed my perception of the town I live in and how it changes the way you act as a person.  

I'll always remember Ms. Natalie’s happy face each morning when we (the volunteers) showed up to rebuild her house.  We made a huge impact, helping to reconstruct the place where they were going to be spending moments with their families.

When you first start working at a house, you don’t know anything.  Words like mudding and taping and sanding don’t mean anything.  You also ignore whose house you are working for, and on many occasions, the people in your group is.  But it only takes about a day, or even less than that, to become an "expert" on construction, get to know whose life you are helping to change, and to become close with your team.

This experience really makes you see everything from a whole different perspective. Being there is kind of magical.  New Orleans makes you want to be a better person.  You realize how important it is to listen to what others have to say.  You learn how important the little things are.  Like just saying please and thank you.

Thank You.

We must thank all of our young volunteers and their families for supporting The NOLA Tree, and being a part of this great volunteer experience.

Young people make up the soul of The NOLA Tree.  They are the common thread that runs through all of our initiatives.