Monday, March 18, 2013


John Dibert School Team!

After Mass at St. Louis Cathedral

Brave roofing team on the Habitat site!  

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dear NOLA Crew,

Thank you for making our trip down south such an amazing experience. I would have to agree that this adventure was beyond eye opening. I learned more about New Orleans and the south than I have in any school book over the past 19 years of my life. But it was all made possible by you guys. Our group really got along so well and laughed off any problems that we encountered. We could not have asked for a better leader than Linda Donovan. She was able to get us all where we needed to be and to make every moment of everyday as enjoyable as possible. including many trips for fro-yo or ice cream. 
I am so proud of the work that we were able to achieve as a team. Not just on the house, but in the lives and hearts of the people at the school, in the homes, and the people shopping at the Habitat Restore. We all went down there to be of service to other people, but upon departure I think we all realized how much we had been changed. I can't speak for everyone, but I felt a lot different when I made it back here to Duquesne. I felt this joy in the form of a smile that I was unable to wipe off my face. I did not understand it at first, but eventually I realized it was just a side effect from my life changing experience down in New Orleans. I felt like a happier person once i got back on the bluff. I felt like I could see the bright side in any situation that the world threw at me and that I could meet any challenges with courage. I felt changed. I hope you all had similar experiences. I know that we all grew closer this past week and that the bond we formed on our NOLA  2013 trip won't easily be broken. :) I miss you guys already.   Beth

ReStore--Habitat for Humanity

My experience in New Orleans was very eye opening and inspiring. I worked at the Restore on Monday and although it was a much different experience than working at the site, our help there was just as appreciated and I realized that it was just as important. The Restore is dependent on donations and the donations sold helps to finance the materials used to build the house. I enjoyed working on the house because being able to see the progress made each day was very satisfying. I was surprised to see how much evidence was still visible from Katrina years later. One of the most interesting things to me was the x marks spray painted on the front of many houses. This trip left a huge impression on me and helped me to realize how I want to share my blessings with those who are in less fortunate circumstances.  Monica

The Ecosystem is important

New Orleans was an amazing experience. I feel really blessed to have worked with such great group of people and to have made friendships that would have never been if it were not for this trip. It still surprises me how well our group got along. Not only did I have a great experience in New Orleans and working with Habitat, I also have people I can now call friends who have shared the same experience. Working with Habitat for Humanity was better than I expected. Though I had no construction experience, I was putting up the siding on the house in no time. I worked on a house that someone will live in one day. Not many people can say that, and I’m glad that I can. One thing I will never forget in New Orleans is when our group visited Bayou Bienvenue. Andrea, our tour guide, gave us a tour of the Lower ninth Ward and we stopped at the Bayou, but it didn’t look like a Bayou. A Bayou is supposed to be full of thick vegetation and aquatic animals, but it was the complete opposite. It was a barren body of water full of skinny dead trees. She handed out an article with a picture of what the Bayou used to look like fifty years ago and the difference was shocking. It used to be beautiful, but now it looks dead. It’s sad that such a beautiful part of nature was destroyed so easily by canals that introduced salt water into the freshwater swamp, destroying all the plant and animal life. It’s interesting how people have realized after Katrina how important it is to protect the environment since the swamp protected the Lower ninth ward from flooding. Sadly, it took a disaster for people to realize the harmful effects of disrupting the balance of the ecosystem. One thing I learned is that it’s important to maintain the balance of the ecosystem, because the environment protects us in many ways that we fail to acknowledge until it is too late. Natalie

NOLA13 Team

Dear New Orleans,

I don’t know how to sum up our time together in a few words. You were everything and more than I expected. Throughout our time we experienced many things ranging from the French Quarter to cleaning out “The Great Container” to sharing two showers and one bathroom with twenty other girls to waking up at 6 in the morning . . .EVERY day. The experience definitely changed my life and made me realize that in life we should focus more on the simple things rather than get caught up in our busy schedules. The view that they have in the lower ninth ward, where most of the houses were completely demolished was very uplifting and filled with hope which I did not expect. 
The outlook in the South will continue to stay with me in Pittsburgh. We seem to be more closed and private with our personal lives. For example, a simple hello is rarely exchanged between two strangers. In New Orleans, everyone seems to say hello to strangers and even are willing to engage in a conversation with the people that they have never met before. After seeing how friendly the people were I am going to take it upon myself to make sure that I smile at more people and engage in more conversation with people.
I was reflecting on my time in New Orleans on the plane ride back to Pittsburgh. At first, I thought that the work that we did on the house was not significant at all because we did not finish the siding and the roof did not get finished either. However, toward the end of the flight I looked at the smaller picture. Us, twenty four of us, helped one family live happily without worry. We helped a family turn a house into a home. New Orleans, you mean more to me than I had expected. Because of your culture and the time I spent with you getting close to twenty three other individuals, I am a better person. I would like to get involved with Habitat for Humanity in my hometown and participate in other mission trips that campus offers. Giving back is something that people take advantage of and I would not have wanted to spend my Spring Break any other place. You and twenty three others along with myself changed a families life -- for the better. To me, that is all that matters from this trip. If one person is changed than I helped to make a difference to one person.
New Orleans, I have one last thing to say to you: Thank You. 
Until next time,
-- Student Seeking Service (Kayla)

Eye Opening and Inspiring!

My experience in New Orleans was very eye opening and inspiring. I worked at the Restore on Monday and although it was a much different experience than working at the site, our help there was just as appreciated and I realized that it was just as important. The Restore is dependent on donations and the donations sold helps to finance the materials used to build the house.
 I enjoyed working on the house because being able to see the progress made each day was very satisfying. I was surprised to see how much evidence was still visible from Katrina years later. One of the most interesting things to me were the x marks spray painted on the front of many houses. This trip left a huge impression on me and helped me to realize how I want to share my blessings with those who are in less fortunate circumstances. Monica

Sunday, March 10, 2013

NOLA 2013 Team on the last day of the Habitat for Humanity job site.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Finding Joy in NOLA!

This trip helped me realize a lot about myself and my own life. Seeing the hardships these people have had to face for the past few years to try and rebuild their lives was an experience in itself. Today, after we finished our final touches on the house, we spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning up various streets in the ninth ward. I know in my group especially one man was extremely impressed with our sidewalk cleaning. He walked up to us, telling us how awesome we were for doing this in his neighborhood and commenting on how fast we worked. He passed us again a little while later when you could begin seeing the sidewalk again and his excitement could've been seen for miles. As he continued back to his house, he waved, sang and skipped for joy. He even knocked on his neighbor's door to let him know of the work happening down the street. If we have as much impact on the homes and people of New Orleans as he did on us I know our trip down here will have been worth while. This trip was unlike any other and overall has changed me as a person. I can only hope I will take these experiences with me to further better others lives in the future. Erin

Habitat Restore

Our experience at Habitat's ReStore on Monday was very different from that at the work site, but at the end of the day we were still blessed with an important realization: We often remind ourselves that change occurs through little steps, but this concept is easily forgotten during boring, monotonous tasks. Needless to say, our job at the Restore fit this description as we priced countless, random donated items, some of which you wondered if anyone would even want or buy.

For example, we sorted at least 30 different bird feeders and foods, and just when I questioned if anyone would even look at these among the many items in the store, a lady walked back to our corner with a joyous expression, stating, "Oh, I love bird feeders!" Although simple, her statement made me realize the importance of what we were doing. No, we weren't building houses, but these "random items" that we were pricing would help to turn people's houses into a home. This woman found joy in such a simple item, and it reminded me that the little, seemingly unimportant duties still matter and bring about change. Also, her purchase of the bird feeder raised money for Habitat to build even more houses, thus creating a cascade of change. So, no matter how unimportant a task may seem, we all have to remember that small changes and honest effort truly do make a difference, and along the way it may influence and inspire us, as well. Jess

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Three days on the roof

Three days on the roof felt like a week, but as we progressed we can see the results of our work. It is amazing how the seven us, complete strangers before this trip, can work together without any conflict. we all have the drive to finish this project. Talking to the natives and volunteers has been a great eye opener, immersing into the culture of New Orleans has been a humbling experience. Getting neck cramps and sunburns was worth it. The week is drawing to an end, here's to the last few days!!! Johnny

The drive to finish!

Definitely a long day today, but very eventful! You can tell there is a drive to get done our respective jobs, especially with one day of work to go. From what I've seen on the roof, we really want to see this completed. It's tough at times when we are unable to do certain jobs that only Ben (our construction manager from Habitat)  is capable of, but once we get moving we do great work. Looking forward to these last couple days!  Kris

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Habitat Chat

One of the most satisfying things in life is completing a job and being able to visibly see the progress you have made.  This could not be any more fitting for our trip here as we are working with Habitat for Humanity.  As we arrived at our site for the week, we found a house covered in paper, lacking a roof, and missing the inside walls.  It was easy to see what jobs needed to get done and what was missing that made the house incomplete.  Only two days into our work, we saw very tangible results as the outside siding, roof, and inside began taking shape.  A sense of pride was immediately felt, as we realized we had come to this unfinished house and made a difference.  But, that’s not what I want to talk about.  What I think is equally important, if not more, are the conversations we have had with community members, fellow groups members, volunteers, and strangers.  These people and their stories are, for me, what makes these kinds of trips so special and memorable.  Engaging in a simple conversation allows us as volunteers to put ourselves in the shoes of those living in New Orleans.  We hear their perspective, not what we saw on t.v. or read in a magazine.  We can relate to them and learn just as much as nailing siding or placing shingles can teach.  The stories we all possess are powerful.  They remind us that we are all connected, all the same.  Taking a water break or a few extra minutes for lunch to talk to someone, to listen to their side of the story could become one of the most valuable pieces we take away with us.  Maeve

Monday, March 4, 2013

Day1: Small Drops in a Large Bucket

St. Bernard Project---Trina's house.
A lot went down on the first day of NOLA 2013. The major difference with today was the separation of the team into 3 groups. Some did flooring at Trina’s house, some did organizing at a local community center, and the remaining members performed duties at a local charter school. The projects seemed small, but we know that they make a difference in people lives. In other words, they are merely drops in the bucket.
 The second component of day 1 was the visit from “Rachel”. We were lucky enough to have a representative from St. Bernard Project join us for dinner tonight. Although we had trouble remembering her name (her real name was Andrea), we learned much about St. Bernard Project’s mission, as well as, the history of New Orleans itself. It was news to us that the St. Bernard Project not only rebuilds homes damaged by Katrina, but also constructs affordable homes from the ground up. This enables displaced New Orleaneans to either return home or start a new home. Everyday SBP works hard to bring back a sense of community to their city. SBP also works to rebuild homes in areas other than NOLA such as Joplin, Missouri and New York City. This is made possible by Toyota, UPS, AmeriCorps, and United Way. Without these wonderful corporations and volunteer organizations,  many people would still be out of homes. As a fun conclusion to the busy day all three groups shared horrific or joyful stories from their day. There were laughs, gasps, and many concerned faces.  We may have broken up into three groups today, but we all helped out the community in unique and necessary ways.  Beth and Brianne

St. Bernard Project-- Flooring

Today, 10 of our NOLA team went to the St. Bernard Project work-site in East New Orleans, to assist in the reconstruction work on the destroyed home of Miss Trina. When we first arrived, the house was already on its way to restoration: the windows were in, the doors were on, and the floors were already begun. Our job was to continue this restoration, with jobs ranging from small to huge, but all fundamental. In individual groups, but as a team, we all contributed to help Miss Trina on her way back to her home. Some of these jobs included cleaning the used tools, priming the walls, trimming the floors, laying down the floorboards, or even taking the excess, misplaced plaster off of the window panes. All of these jobs were fundamental, no matter how small. They were all a part of the restoration process; they were all a part of the restoration of Miss Trina’s home. Altogether, the team feels that our first NOLA experience at the St. Bernard Project work-site was a total success. Between team communication building, learning a few new skills and simply coming together to do a good deed for someone who had everything taken away from them, the team helped our first individual and took pride in our small, yet monumental feats. Shelby

Sunday, March 3, 2013

From the Burgh to the Bayou

Our journey began at 2:30 am in the Spiritan Campus Ministry Center in Towers when we gathered our sleepy selves together for what we did not realize would be a 20 hour day. We traveled by plane to Atlanta and had a layover, then finally landed in New Orleans at 11:15am.  After waiting close to an hour for three rental cars we journeyed past the Superdome and what the city had to offer, ending in our charming home here at Aurora United Methodist Church. While driving past all the sights and sounds we observed abandoned houses next to gated mansions. It was shocking to us how polar opposite these environments were. Many hearts were breaking when we saw the living conditions of the neighborhoods. It seemed as though we were worlds apart, but we realized our humanity unites us.
 It was exciting to witness a colorful St. Patrick's Day Parade (where they actually throw produce off the floats!) and to see the culture New Orleans has to offer. While we did see the personality of New Orleans, the pressing need for help was just as evident. We’ve begun to see the need, and we are now fully prepared to start understanding and aiding our brothers and sisters.  Beth and Brianne