The before and after is such a cliche blog post that I figured I had to do it. It’s been 3 days since I’ve been back from New Orleans, volunteering with Gracenotes and Habitat for Humanity. Besides from the heat rash, and bizarre tan lines, life has resumed as usual and I’m back in the office for the summer semester check-in.

However, since I’ve been back, I have been overwhelmed and touched by how many people have come up to me to ask me how my trip was. I suppose that they saw my picture at Brass Day (I hope it was a good one!). The best type of people to approach me, however, are the ones who previously went on the trip. They are all so eager and genuinely interested in hearing how it went and now that I’ve experienced it myself, I can see why they would want to know if my trip was as fulfilling as theirs, and if I had the same amazing time as they did. This is the kind of trip that sticks with you, the kind of experience that you want to share with others.

So the obvious “before and after” would be the houses that we worked on. As you can see below, before we arrived the exterior of the house was very bare. When we left, we left these people’s homes with with a brand new stained front porch, and a shiny new fence, and a beautiful front yard, complete with grass, a sidewalk and a driveway. It’s amazing what just four days can do.

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 9.03.06 PM

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 9.10.01 PM

However, when you put this particular “before and after” alongside the bigger picture of New Orleans before and after Katrina, it can seem like such a small drop in the ocean. So much work has gone into rebuilding the city over the past 11 years, but what not everyone realizes is that there is so much more work still to be done. We took a drive through the Lower 9th Ward on a sunny happy day and drove past rolling fields of green grass. At first glance, it seems like a tranquil, quiet, rural area, but then you realize that all of these empty grassy plots actually used to be people’s homes, and the reason that it is so quiet is that not many of them have returned.

Thousands of people’s houses were completely wiped out, and because they didn’t have the proper flood insurance, they were never able to rebuild their homes.

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 9.15.47 PM

Even a simple search on Googlemaps can show you how desolate this area still is

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 9.17.11 PM

As a result, once you get out past the touristy Bourbon and Frenchman St, New Orleans is a completely changed city that may never bounce back. Even worse, the situation in New Orleans has gotten lost in the news. You don’t hear about the people who are still struggling to make life work, in fact you don’t even hear about the massive oil spill right off the coast.

In a world where information is blasted at you 24/7, it is so important to remember that even if something is dropped from the news, it doesn’t mean it isn’t still happening. I feel so lucky to have had my eyes opened in this way, and I really hope that we can continue to promote this cause.  #berkleenola