This August 29 marked ten years since Hurricane Katrina devastated much of New Orleans and many other communities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Estimates place the damage in excess of $100 million. More devastating than the storm itself perhaps, is the long-term impact that it has had on the communities that were flooded, including New Orleans.
Much of New Orleans sits below sea level, so is protected from flooding on a daily basis by levees. When those levees failed during the storm, more than 80 percent of the city was flooded. Many residents lost everything they owned because of the storm’s aftermath: the flooding. And while many were able to return and rebuild within months, thousands of families still have not returned and homes stand vacant in some of New Orleans neighborhoods.
To say that New Orleans still needs assistance might be an understatement. With that in mind, a group of over 20 teenagers and adults traveled from my church in Park City, Utah to New Orleans to assist home owners in the rebuilding process which continues in several neighborhoods throughout the city. They were participating in a study at church called “Summer of Service” and this trip was an opportunity to step out of their comfort zone and serve those in real need.
My daughter, Nicole, was one of the teens on that trip. The group worked with an organization called ReachGlobal, the crisis response ministry of the EFCA, which has been working in New Orleans since 2005. Nicole’s group was split into teams to assist with work projects at various homes in New Orleans including in the Ninth Ward.
The first two days, Nicole’s team worked on Mr. Joe’s house. Mr. Joe is a 66 year old Vietnam veteran. He has been slowly repairing his home over the past ten years. The two days they worked on his home they completed a new roof. After that, Mr. Joe could not afford additional supplies, so they were unable to continue any projects for him. ReachGlobal’s model is that while they provide free labor, the homeowners must purchase the supplies for every project.
For their final three work days, Nicole’s group moved on to a home that had been purchased by a ReachGlobal team member. Much of this home needed to be completely gutted and rebuilt. The team worked on cleaning the areas that were salvageable and painting areas with new drywall and trim.
It was hard work, but the group completed many projects during their five work days. And they all came home with a fresh appreciation for the blessings they have and believing in a hopeful future for New Orleans.