Alumni, Rotaractors help out in New Orleans
Top: Rotarian Jaffrey Blanks assists Rotaractor Andrew Melchers at a service project 19 May during the Rotaract Preconvention Meeting. Rotary Images/Monika Lozinska-Lee
Bottom: Phil Chaseling, of the Rotary Club of Tamworth, Australia, helps repaint a house in New Orleans 20 May during a preconvention service project. Rotary Images/Alyce Henson
Rotaractors, Rotarians, and Rotary Foundation alumni have rolled up their sleeves to help families in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, still reeling from the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Foundation alumni and Rotarians teamed up with the nonprofit United Saints Recovery Project on 20 May to repaint homes in the Central City neighborhood. The day before, Rotaractors worked with Habitat for Humanity of New Orleans to add shingles, install siding, and build a front porch for a family in the Upper Ninth Ward.
Both service projects took place before the 2011 RI Convention.
The two dozen volunteers at the alumni project also painted murals on sheets of plywood, which they used to help board up blighted houses. The city has begun to fine homeowners who violate certain city housing codes up to $500 a day.
“This was quite an opportunity for us to help,” says Maud Huey-Kenyon, of the Rotary Club of Boulder Valley, Colorado, who volunteered with her husband, also a Rotarian. “Besides, I like hands-on projects.”
Kathleen Koch, a former Ambassadorial Scholar who will serve as a panelist during the convention’s second plenary session on 23 May, had personal reasons for helping out. Koch grew up in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, which was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. “People have no idea how much people still need help,” says Koch, author of Rising from Katrina: How My Mississippi Hometown Lost It All and Found What Mattered.
Rotaract service project
As part of the Rotaract Preconvention Meeting, Rotaractors spent eight hours hammering nails and sawing wood to help construct a three-bedroom home.
Netila Demneri, of the Rotaract Club of Toronto, says the opportunity to team up with other Rotaractors from around the world made the project an ideal example of the 2010-11 RI theme, Building Communities -- Bridging Continents .
“With three countries represented, we are truly bridging our continents, and together helping to build the New Orleans community,” says Demneri. “As aspiring Rotarians, we’re putting into practice the goal RI has set out for this year.”
The Rotaractors also worked alongside the new owner, who is required by Habitat for Humanity to invest at least 350 hours of “sweat equity” to help build the home.
Rotaractor Timothy Nay, of Maui, Hawaii, remembers seeing the devastation of Hurricane Katrina on the news after the storm hit.
“One of the big reasons all of us are here is that we remember what disastrous things happened to this city,” says Nay. “I’m truly honored to be a part of rebuilding New Orleans.”
Cheryl J. Wong, a member of the Rotaract Club of South Bay, California, USA, says the hands-on project is what Rotary and Rotaract are all about.
“I wanted to do something that would have an impact,” says Wong. “Rotaract is good at raising funds and putting on events, but it’s much more gratifying to be here, on the ground, making a difference.”