Hot and Steamy Thursday

Hey yall from Natalie and Jordi! It is 9:15pm on our second-to-last day of service. Today we really worked well together on site and also during our evening cleanup. We worked with our new project manager on a house that the team demo-ed yesterday. Our job today was to measure, cut, and install various beams and supports for the structure of the house. I used a nail gun on a scaffold and on the rafters! It was a great experience because we all challenged ourselves in some way. During reflection, we talked about how important it was for us to actually see the devastation here, because even when Katrina was in the news, we couldn’t really understand what was going on here. At two of the three sites, we have seen the homeowners, which really made the issue real. It is so hard to believe that some people have been living in trailers for FIVE YEARS and some are only now getting the trailers they need to live in while their houses are fixed by volunteers. We realized the power of a group, but also the limitations of relief efforts because of the time, budget, and material constraints. I wish that we could stay longer and finish what we started on site yesterday and today. I am going to miss it here: my worries about work and school seem so trivial now. I am proud of my team for being so “gumby” and for bonding and working so well. Each person brings something different and special. I’m glad to say I was on this trip. :-)

Gulf Coast Day 3

Hello from Bay St. Louis Mississippi. It is the third day of our trip and it was also the third work site we went to. Today we worked on a house that that has just begun replacing the walls of the house. We started the day by removing existing dry wall and insulation. This was a fun part of the day because everyone was swinging hammers to remove the dry wall and we were all laughing and having fun while removing the wall. We are all starting to come together at this point in the trip and this event was evident of this. Throughout the day we all changed jobs and worked with different people (except Jordi and Caitlin who were troopers today removing nails from wood remains for almost the who work time; TROOPERS) and getting to know the better. The rest of the day we just did odd chores to clean out the damaged parts of the house in order for us to start rebuilding the house tomorrow. Some of us removed unneeded nails while others swept and removed more dry wall/insulation. We worked so well today that we were able to get out early and catch some much needed sleep.

This has been one of the best experiences of my life thus far. I have meet a bunch of kind, generous, and well rounded individuals whose desire to help others rivals none. This trip has opened my eyes to what has not yet happened to many of the people in the Gulf Coast and what still needs to happen. We are having a blast down here and cannot wait to come home and share our stories, observations, and learnings of the trip.

We are working hard to achieve things that should have happened many years ago.

Cya Y’all.

Michael Klemens

Gulf Coast

I really enjoyed the service project that our team did today. We were in charge of painting the outside walls and roof of a family’s home. During our time painting, we learned a lot about the family who lived in the house and about the members of our team. I especially think that this project brought our team closer together in so many ways. We have clicked really well as a group, and accomplishing something as large as painting a house in a day was a huge feat. We really felt like we accomplished something together and everyone did their fair share. There were interesting partner dynamics within the painting crew, my personal favorite being Kevin and Megan, as Megan had to coach “the man” how to get onto the roof! There were people everywhere having paint wars, and by the end of the day Liz had taken a shower in paint. Overall, we bonded a lot through this particular service project and we became a lot closer as a whole. As opposed to yesterday, I personally felt like we accomplished something and did something really helpful. Our labor was important and everyone who was supervising us was so complimentary on our work. I hope for the remainder of our trip that we can have experiences such as these!!


One of my life goals is to constantly try to live in the moment, the now. At Lafayette, it can be a little difficult to maintain that mentality when everyone and everything around me is constantly pushing towards graduation and my future. However, being back in Mississippi centers me again, and allows me to get back to what matters most to me: making a difference.

I’ll admit, a few coats of paint and some sanding might not seem like much to some people, and at first it didn’t to me either. Experience changed my mind. To me, community service is about the relationships you form. Whether it be stopping to say “Hi, how are you today?” to a cashier in Walmart, or finding out what motivates full time volunteers down here, or speaking to the owner of the home you’re working on, there is an opportunity to create a connection everywhere we turn. To truly make a difference, I believe you have to ignite a passion in another person. As a team leader, I hope I can do this with my team; but as a human being, I hope I can do this with everyone I meet. I know that I am only one person, but I believe in the potential for change and I believe I have the ability to enact it.

There I go on the future again, back to the now. In Mississippi, life is on a different pace. We have goals for the day and tasks to complete, but time escapes us, and its an amazing feeling. I can get grounded again in what’s most important to me: forming those relationships and trying to make a difference. Right now, all I have to worry about is how I can make someones world a little better tomorrow and maybe a few coats of paint are all they need, or maybe an ear to listen, or maybe a simple hello. Whatever it is, it starts with me, and it starts now.

Gulf Coast Beginnings

Dear Blog Readers

The last 48 hours have been a combinatinon of exciting, hectic, eye-opening, and really fun.   Lets recap.

The group met outside of Farinon at 4 am Sunday morning.  Although everyone was tired from a long night of packing…. there was a silent confidence amongst the group that this trip was going to be legendary. After a luxurious flight to Houston texas (still find it funny how everyone says “yall” in Texas) we crammed onto an airplane the size of a bathroom stall on our way to Mississippi.  I remember in 2nd grade being taught how to spell Mississippi with that rthymic letter song. (M.. I-s-s…. I-s-s….I-pp-I)  Never thoguht I’d make it down here though. 

After a quick check-in… as a group we set off on our first road trip to New Orleans…. or as the locals say…. “noorlands”. Shoutout to our group leader Liz who made reservations at a delicious Louisiana-style restaurant and let the rest of us gallavant around New Orelans while she waited in line for our table.  The majority of us decided to take a walk down the infamous Bourbon street.  Even though I had heard the stories and rumors…… nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to see.  Despite it being 5:30 pm on a Sunday…. you would have thought it was a saturday night summer night.  Adults partying all over the street, strip clubs at every corner, and people in absurd Mardi Gras costumes willing to take pictures with locals.  Beads wrapped around everyones neck and an alcoholic beverage in every hand. As Rocco said best “you can just smell sin in the air”.  Nonethless it was a great experience.  It definitely was something I wanted to see once in my life with my own eyes.

After a quick tour of the party life in New Orelans… it was time to enjoy the finer side of down south.  The restauraunt was ABSOLUTELY delicious.  I could not have dreamed of a more enjoyable meal as I was able to sample Louisiana style Crawfish, shrimp, seafood, and jumbolaya. with all due respect to Lower Farinon Chicken Fritters…. this food was in a league of its own.  After dinner we toured the city as a group and were able to see historical landmarks and witness beautiful scenery out across the Mississippi River.  Despite our flight being pushed back forcing us to have an extremely hectic day rushing around, I still think the decision to go into New Orleans was beyond well-worth it.  Great great experience.

After a 6:45 wake up call the next day…. it was off to breakfast.  Not going to lie…. the food has certainly EXCEEDED expecatiosn thus far (we will see if I’m still saying the same thign on day 4 or 5).  After heading to the worksite… we encountered our project for the week.  At first, when we were told that the house was 90% completed, I was disapointed and thought that there wasn’t going to be much to do.  However, after taking one walk through the house, I would soon realize how much was still left to be done.  I think it finally “hit me” when the homeowner arrived to greet us and provide supplies that this was actually real life.  This poor man and family lost everything and 5 years later is still in the process of gaining it back.  Hopefully… we can all do our part to contribute and help him/his family get back on track.

blog confession:  The group doesn’t know this yet… but I have the “handy” skills of a 5 year old.  Despite being a 22 year old male… I still am unable to correctly turn on an oven, boil water, or cook anything besides Hot Pockets.  But… we don’t need to share that information with Team Gulf Coast just yet.  As the team builder and one of the only students on this trip with a Y chromosome… I need to breathe confience.  I know my squad looks to me for guidance — specifically when it comes to tools and manual labor. lol. nonethless everyone seemed to work really hard today and we seem to really be clicking as a group.  Need to give another shoutout to Megan… who apparently minors in woodshop at Lafayette. absolutely incredible job today.

Overall… I really couldn’t have asked for a better 48 hour start to this trip.  It seems like we have a great group and I am truly looking foward to forming new friendships and learning more about my peers.  I already have gotten close with people I hardly knew last week…. which is great  I signed up on this trip because I wanted to give back to the less fortunate and I believed that this was going to be such a rewarding experience.  Thus far… mission accomplished.

The Beginning: Days 1 & 2

After a little confusion with the time change, a few very unhappy TSA workers, and two plane rides, the Gulf Coast team finally arrived in Mississippi last night. After we unloaded our luggage at LESM Mission on the Bay, we jumped right back into our vans and drove straight to New Orleans.

I had never been to New Orleans before, so I had no idea what to expect. It was quite an experience to walk down Bourbon Street and push my way through the raging crowd, at roughly 5 PM on a Sunday evening. In contrast, Jackson Square was quite a different scene. It was quaint, old-fashioned, and more of what I had expected. It was also very interesting to see how little damage there was in the French Quarter. It was hard to believe the area had ever been flooded, which was NOT the case with  the area where we would be working.

After a scenic stroll through the city, the team had dinner at Acme Oyster House, a typical New Orleans restaurant. My team members were a little more adventurous than I was with their orders. They ate crayfish, oysters, jambalaya, and even a deep fried crab! I don’t eat fish, so it took me a little longer to find something on the menu I would like. After dinner we waited in quite a long line for some delicious bagnettes and headed back to our camp site. Bagnettes are a french pastry, kind of like zeppoles but slightly larger. Aside from the mess of powdered sugar we made in the vans on our ride back to LESM, it was a great night. The group got to bed early so we would be well rested for our activities the next day.

I woke up bright and early this morning, ready to work, at 6:20 AM. After breakfast, we drove out to the house we would be working on for the week. At this point, the house is about ninety percent complete, so we mainly had odd jobs to perform. One of my favorite jobs was cutting and placing the trim for the walls because I got to use power tools to get the job done. I was one of the two people who’d used a band saw before, so I cut most of the trim and taught Dave and Kevin how to use the saw as well. It was a hard day’s work, but there’s still much more to be done.

Our construction supervisor, Rey, informed us that almost all of the funding is gone for Katrina relief. Therefore, it is up to the homeowner to provide funding for rebuilding. If the homeowner does not have sufficient funds to purchase the materials needed to keep working, everything stops. This was very frustrating to hear, but at least we are doing something to help out.

On a happier note, our group is awesome and has been getting along wonderfully! We soaked up some sun at the beach today and are planning a bonfire (with smores!) for later in the week. So far this trip has been a ton of fun as well as a real eye-opening experience. I’m looking forward to finishing more work tomorrow and getting the Clark family out of the FEMA trailer they’ve been living in for the past five years. After today, they are one more step closer to moving into their home!