Day 1 - Gumbo - a little bit of everything blended together to make something wonderfully new and unique. Known as a yummy stew and a blend of cultures.
Gumbo is so New Orleans - both past and present. And it is a great way to describe the state of mind for this absolutely unique and beautiful city which is rich in both culture and complexity.
Today we had a true orientation to New Orleans. Most of us started the day by walking around the corner to the Christ Church Cathedral to be warmly greeted curbside by both the priest and vestry greeter! The service included amazing music that was preformed by a multi-generational choir and a brief but stirring sermon by the cathedral dean. We were all impressed by the many outreach programs the cathedral is actively involved the Haitian Relief effort, Heifer International and local food pantries. During announcements the priest spoke eloquently and sympathetically about Haiti. We were all moved by his compassion and understanding of the Haitian people. We were warmly greeted during announcements and coffee hour. Many parishioners made sure to thank us and everyone who is supporting our being here for the ongoing support we are providing to New Orleans.
During the afternoon we took a 3+ hour van tour of the city historical sites as well as the surrounding areas. We saw a little bit of everything - dress clad men celebrating the Saints' entry in the Super Bowl to the direct impact of Katrina upon the neighborhoods of New Orleans.
Gumbo ya ya - everyone talking and no one listening. To me it is empty house lots where people want to rebuild and move back home but can't because of existing laws and regulations that keep them from being able to do so.
We got to see the wonderful work that Habitat for Humanity is doing. They have committed to building 2,500 homes in New Orleans. Also, we got to see the wonderful work that Brad Pitt is doing through Making It Right for New Orleans. Through his foundation, he is building "green" homes in the 9th Ward.
Our tour guides lost their homes to the Katrina floods along with all of their belongings. They shared with us their stories and told of those who not as lucky. The impact of these stories, make us want to get started in helping even more.