This week, we here at Volunteer Expeditions are pleased to present you with a guest blogger. Ari was one of the leaders of a synagogue youth group that traveled with us at the end of December. We want to give you a firsthand perspective of the volunteer traveler's experience. So without further ado, discover what it's like...
Motivated. Inspired. Eyes-opened. Shocked. Energized. Committed. All of these words and more describe how I, along with 15 of my synagogue’s youth felt after spending a few days in New Orleans, volunteering in the Lower 9th ward. This was my first time to New Orleans, but a handful of the participants had gone on a temple-led trip 2 years ago. For newcomers and second-timers alike, the amount of work that still needed to be done was shocking. Parts of New Orleans looked like the hurricane had just come last week. Patti put together an amazing trip that allowed us not only to do some meaningful work, but to also meet and talk with those both still affected by the hurricane and those who are doing work to help the community stand on its own again.
To try and decide which moment of the trip was the most moving and powerful would be impossible. We had dinner at Pastor Bruce Davenport’s church, where we learned about the poverty and crime that affects his community. Our participants instantly fell in love with the children of the families in the community, and after only one dinner there were deep connections forged.
A second powerful moment the entire group got to share together was on our last day volunteering, at the Lower 9th Ward Village. The director, Mack, was very inspirational and really painted the scene for our participants. He told us of the troubles affecting the area around him and how the community was beginning to come together to help everyone rebuild. The children left their discussion and work with Mack asking me how we as a congregation could continue to help Mack in his mission to build this community center.
It has been 2 weeks since my trip got back from New Orleans, yet the feeling of wanting to do more and help, both in New Orleans and within our own community, is strong among the participants of the trip and we are in the process of developing monthly projects that our teens can do to better our community. The trip taught myself and the participants so much, gave us a new appreciation of our own lives, and inspired us to not let that trip be the end of our action, but the beginning.
Thank you, Ari! We're thrilled that you and your youth group were so inspired. We hope to give many, many more groups the opportunities you found. (For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org today!)