ACE and Alternative Breaks 2012 in NOLA

J. Michael Cruz, director of the Dedman College Center for Academic-Community Engagement (ACE), is participating in the Alternative Breaks trip to New Orleans in December. Participants in the trip, which is co-sponsored by ACE and the office of Community Engagement and Leadership, are working with Youth Rebuilding New Orleans. You can follow the group on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SMU.ACE

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Flood lines and hard work

Monica and Dan with the circular saw

Students made chocolate-chip pancakes for breakfast this morning, and then we headed to the S. Salcedo house by 9am. All of us worked on this one house – some inside and some outside, and we worked in teams of two.

I worked with Kimberly to install baseboards with a power nailer; Danny and Shauna were in charge of cutting the baseboards to size; and Janice and Emily were taking the measurements. On the exterior, Karissa and Anthony removed nails from the siding with Prince, Adam worked with Dhvante and Turk installing new siding, and Monica and Dan worked with one of the YRNO employees, Mr. Leonard, repairing existing siding.

Shauna

We worked until noon and then ate our sack lunches in the van while William, the Executive Director, gave us a tour of the areas that experienced some of the more serious flooding. The tour included the Lower Ninth Ward, which was among the hardest hit during Hurricane Katrina. This is also the location of the homes built by the Make It Right organization, founded by Brad Pitt in 2007. These homes have the highest rating for being environmentally friendly. And in the Lower Ninth,  they were built for the former residents of the area who lost their homes. Last, while the neighborhood is dotted with homes, William said it’s not nearly as populated as it used to be.

While on the tour he shared various factoids about the impact that Katrina had on New Orleans , including: Only 10% of schools were undamaged by the storms; roughly about 40,000 homes were destroyed or majorly impacted (and they’ve been able to rebuild/repair about 10,000); and he told us that today, homeowners are fined for having visible waterlines on their homes/businesses. (Apparently the city will fine someone for not erasing/cleaning those off.)

We left our mark on the inside of a baseboard.

After the tour and lunch we helped unload sheetrock and wood from a truck, and then we went back to doing what we had been, before the break. Inside the house, the six of us working on baseboards were able to complete the entire back half of the house (the front half was already completed), and then Kimberly got busy sealing the seams between baseboard and wall with caulk.  Having the baseboards cut and installed, the rest of us inside framed out a fireplace.

This took the last four hours of our workday. At the end of the day it was nice to see the amount of work that we had completed. Ryan thanked us for our work and stated that what we did today would have taken him three days to do on his own. He was very grateful for our help.

Since we have dinner plans tomorrow and Wednesday, away from the hostel, tonight was our leftover night. At 630pm we gathered as a group on a picnic table outside and ate leftover spaghetti, pizzas, black beans, veggie burgers, tortillas, chips, chicken, and lots and lots of cheese. Students also cooked and ate a brisket left behind by some other hostel guests.

Our reflection took place at 8pm. We first drew a photo of our hand on a paper and with each finger answered the following questions:

  1. What new thing have we done on this trip;
  2. What have we done that we hope we never do again;
  3. What have we done that we would do differently;
  4. What lasting impression do we hope to leave;
  5. What have we done that we’re we grateful for.

This discussion was followed by three rounds of Catch Phrase.

You can also follow ACE on Facebook.

The group with William at the flood line

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