Sisters Sheilagh Martin and Evelyn Williams of the Sisters of Charity Halifax traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana for a week with 10 Mount Saint Vincent University students. They thoroughly enjoyed the hospitality of the sisters at the House of Charity while working on Ms. Pam’s house, the Charity Build, financed by the Sisters of Charity Federation congregations. Read more about the experience from fourth year Public Relations student Robyn Ainslie Chase from Mount Saint Vincent University:
Mount Saint Vincent University encourages students to volunteer and give back to the community. From February 13-18, Scott Daniels and the Sisters of Charity Halifax took 10 students to New Orleans, Louisiana. We stayed with and experienced community with the Sisters of Charity at the House of Charity, a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Federation.
Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in August 2005. Ten years later, the city’s population is back to what it was before the storm, but with half the housing options. The St. Bernard Project is an organization working to help restore the areas the storm affected most. We were fortunate to work with the St. Bernard Project, which offers two options for New Orleanians. The first is opportunity housing which creates homeownership opportunities for residents of low to moderate income levels. The second is helping homeowners return to their previous homes, and involves rebuilding their previous houses.
Our group worked on Ms. Pam’s house on Vermillion Street. The storm destroyed her house; she and her daughter have had to move nine times in the past 10 years. She was also a victim of contractor fraud and government red tape. We spent three days working on her house. This involved sanding, mudding, caulking and priming the house. These small tasks made a huge difference in the house’s aesthetics. After ten years of uncertainty, our group helped Ms. Pam come closer to moving home.
Morgan Mersereau, a second year Nutrition student, said, “It was an experience that we won’t soon forget. Being able to help a family who needs it while visiting a new part of the world with people who, before this, we never knew, was humbling.”
Each day began with a short reflection at the house, then off to the work site. Heather Deck, a third year Nutrition student, said “The trip really showed me that poverty is everywhere, not only in developing countries. You don’t necessarily have to travel half way around the world to make an impact on the lives of others.” She added, “I really appreciated being able to stay with the local Sisters of Charity, as opposed to in a tourist area. This allowed me to experience what living in New Orleans is truly like and gave me a whole new perspective on life.” After each day of volunteering, we came home to a lovely home cooked, New Orleans dinner prepared by the Sisters at the House of Charity.
I thoroughly enjoyed this trip. It was a mix of exploring, volunteering and learning. I was able to directly help a family, tour Bourbon Street and eat beignets at Café du Monde. How many volunteer opportunities do you come across that let you explore a city, help a family, enjoy community and home cooked meals?
This trip gave me a unique perspective on volunteering. I never knew such simple tasks could make such a visible difference. In three days we were able to see the house transformed into a home. This trip has given me a whole new passion for volunteering. Small tasks, like sanding and mudding, can make a world of difference. Special thanks to the Sisters of Charity Halifax for making this possible.