New Orleans has always been at the top of my bucket list of U.S. cities to visit. So, when I heard that campus ministry was hosting a winter break service trip there, I jumped at the chance! The trip would be a weeklong community service adventure with of my five fellow students and our two fearless leaders from campus ministry (shout out to Lisa and Dani!).
We worked with a man named David Young, who went to New Orleans shortly after Katrina and never left. He created the Capstone project, in which he turned about 20 abandoned lots in the Lower Ninth Ward (one of the most devastated neighborhoods after the hurricane) into community gardens where locals can grow and harvest produce themselves. Working with David, we helped build a fence, weed flowerbeds, dig a small field, clean out a barn and storage shed, learn about aquaculture, and the list goes on. It was hard work, but it was rewarding.
I didn’t know anyone when we started the trip, but after deep conversations at the dinner table focused on topics like recovery, justice, and our shared experiences with manual labor, I gained an appreciation for everyone on the trip. It reminded me how lucky I am to have a community like Juniata, and how much everyone on campus has something to bring to the table.
We did tons of work while we were there, but we also had a lot of fun exploring New Orleans! I tried three different kinds of beignets (the best are at Café DuMonde, but go in the evening when the line isn’t crazy), waltzed up and down Bourbon Street listening to the music, toured the Voodoo Museum, joined a parade, and so much more. In case there are any dog lovers reading, I saw Viallobos Recscue, known for being on Animal Planet’s Pitbulls and Perolees too!
I think my favorite part of experiencing the city was seeing The Living Museum of the 9th Ward. As you walk through each room, you also walk through New Orleans’ history. You visualize its past from the atrocities of slavery through to the present. Then you enter the Katrina room. Learning about the tragedy up close was eye opening. New Orleans experienced the best and worst of humanity all at the same time. By the end of the trip, I knew my time in New Orleans was be the most enlightening experience I’ve had in my college so far.
–Libby Schreffler ’21, Entrepreneurship POE