Volunteer Expeditions Banner

Volunteer Expeditions Banner

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hurricane Sandy: Learning the Lessons of Katrina

Hurricane Sandy has left a long trail of destruction in its wake. The sad events of the last few days, the images of homes destroyed, and the suddenly homeless all evoke powerful emotions. Unfortunately, this situation is not unique.

Our founder and president, Patti, is all too familiar with those who need to rebuild their lives. She reflected on the similarities and - thank goodness - differences from a hurricane just a few years ago...

Courtesy of NASA Goddard
As I look at the major devastation Hurricane Sandy has visited on the Eastern seaboard, I compare it to New Orleans in 2005. With scenes of rows and rows of houses with waters up through their windows and streets completely flooded, the flashback is real and intense. However, I think the horror of beginning to rebuild New Orleans will not be repeated. As I become glued to my television, I see the president, the governors, FEMA, and wonderful agencies like the American Red Cross immediately stepping forward so that the New Orleans nightmare is not repeated. The quick and responsive nature to Hurricane Sandy is stunning in comparison. All we can do is hope and pray that the victims of Hurricane Sandy will recover quickly and resume their normal and appreciated lives.

While people are focused on helping those in the Northeast who truly deserve our hope and attention, it is our wish that we do not forget the citizens still rebuilding their lives in New Orleans.

How will you help those on the East Coast? Leave us a comment below.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Patti's Passion

We are thrilled that our friends at Volunteer Global are compiling a book of volunteer travel stories. Our founder and president, Patti, wanted to share her story with them - and we want to share it with you! If you've ever wondered what you can do when you grow up and/or retire, you'll discover that the possibilities are endless.

Some people retire. They sleep in, play bridge and golf, knit, run some errands.

I am not one of them.

A year after my attempt at retiring, I was so shocked at the devastation from Hurricane Katrina that I organized a trip for my Chicago suburban synagogue to volunteer in New Orleans. Even 18 months after the storm, the destruction was heartbreaking. Thousands of homes were completely destroyed, and thousands more had to be completely gutted before they were deemed safe. We even had to wear HAZMAT suits.

I couldn’t just stay retired and do nothing. After word of our inspiring trip had spread to other local religious organizations – and I was asked to plan trips for them – I knew I had discovered my new lifework. I founded Volunteer Expeditions and now plan trips for religious, school and family groups from all over the country to help rebuild New Orleans. My organization has even expanded to offer trips for groups to tutor children in Jamaica and to help the homeless and hungry in Chicago and Washington, DC.

Patti jamming in New Orleans with some new friends
I am truly awed each and every day by the spirit, the determination, and the unwavering support of the volunteers I meet. Their work, their time and their money have genuinely made a difference to the people of New Orleans. I have had the pleasure of watching this city rebuild itself. In just a few short years, it has gone from a city destroyed with no green spaces to a vibrant place with new homes, businesses and parks. It still has a ways to go, but it is headed in the right direction.

Even though I have retired from the normal workforce, I'm spending my full time doing what I love best. And that's bringing volunteers to do worthwhile work that makes a difference in their lives and in the lives of the people they touch.

Do you know someone retired who is following their passion? Tell us in the comment section!