by Amanda Scott

Myself and seven other Mount Saint Vincent University students spent this past reading week in New Orleans, Louisiana with the Sisters of Charity, on a volunteer trip to help rebuild a house for a family who lost their home to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Ms. Bridget Anderson and her two sons had been living in unsafe conditions with black mold for years and were victims of contractor fraud, which was unfortunately very common after Katrina. We got to meet Bridget and her sons on the first day of volunteering, which was one of the best moments of the entire trip, as we got to put faces and meaning to the work we were doing.

I still find it hard to believe that after 13 years, New Orleans is still not fully recovered from Hurricane Katrina. Going into this volunteer trip, I did not expect to see the things I saw or experience the things I did. Since I’ve returned, I’m finding it very hard to put into words the impact this trip has had on me. This trip opened up my eyes to so much more than the issues that exist in New Orleans. It has given me the desire to want to help whenever and however I can to everyone in my daily life. It was such a worthwhile trip and I’m walking away from it with a different perspective on life.

I had a lot of people ask me why I chose to apply to a program like this one and what were the reasons for wanting to take my week off to volunteer and do construction work. I think for me it’s that I feel so fortunate for the life that I’m living and the things that I’ve been blessed with, that if I have the physical ability and resources to be able to go to another city and help those who aren’t as fortunate, then why wouldn’t I go is a much better question to me. It’s so easy to take things for granted in today’s society and I want to set an example to others that if we all come together, we can make big differences in other people’s lives.

“My experience was reflected in the work we did to help Miss Bridget. We worked hard and were truly rewarded by meeting great people and staying in a beautiful city. I learned a lot about the extremes of great sorrow and joy. I am very thankful for this experience and encourage anyone interested in this opportunity to take a risk and apply!”

Evelyn Sabine, Mount Saint Vincent University Student

“I feel honoured and grateful to be a part of such a life changing event for Miss Bridget and her boys. I have made many new friends over the past week and I will never forget the memories we have made.”

Gracen Marchand, Mount Saint Vincent University Student

For anyone who wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves, I highly recommend going on a volunteer trip like this one. It truly is one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. The organization we worked with was the Saint Bernard’s Project (SBP) and they are an amazing non-profit, disaster relief organization who made our volunteer experience exceed any of the group’s expectations. They have helped re-build over 600 houses in New Orleans and are turning abandoned homes into opportunity homes for low-income families. The work that they are doing is absolutely incredible. For anyone looking to give their service to those who need it, this is an amazing organization to do it with.

I’ll never be able to express my gratitude or give enough thanks to the Sisters of Charity – Halifax; Evelyn and Sheilagh, the Sister of Charity who reside at the House of Charity in New Orleans; Monica, Peg, Vicki and Claire who opened up their home to us and fed us some amazing traditional New Orleans food, SBP, Scott, Melissa and every single person I met this past week. I learned so much from everyone on this trip and I had so much fun along the way. We shared so many laughs and amazing conversations that I’m very grateful for. I’m leaving this week with lots of new skills and lots of amazing memories I’ll never forget. Thank you so much to everyone.