NOAHH Says Goodbye to a Hardworking AmeriCorps Crew
These dedicated individuals are returning home, going to school, or applying what they’ve learned in the field to the next phase in their lives. AmeriCorps volunteers choose the location in which they want to serve, and this bright bunch chose New Orleans. While some had toured the city several times, others had never ventured to New Orleans before.
“I had visited the city three times,” AmeriCorps VISTA Katie Nguyen said. “ During my visits, I instantly fell in love…furthermore, I saw how much of the city was waiting to be rebuilt and saw tremendous opportunity to shape its redevelopment.”
“I was honestly surprised at how much of destruction this city still sees,” AmeriCorps Direct Hannah Silver said. “You would expect that much of it would have been demolished, leaving empty lots instead, but really there are just decrepit structures all over the place and it is shocking to see it for the first time.”
Instead of feeling disheartened, they saw an opportunity to better a community. The experience provided a window for them into substandard housing and its need for improvement, and some found New Orleans much different from their hometowns.
“Some areas are very different from where I’m from,” AmeriCorps Direct Evan Clark said. “Where I live there’s very little poverty, there are very few homeless people. It’s an issue, but not on this scale.”
Once they arrived, some were surprised with what they found. Nguyen said she was surprised to find how small New Orleans actually is; the city has a population of approximately 350,000. While others were simply surprised the city was not “a party 24/7.”
“Which is not entirely a misconception,” AmeriCorps Direct Evan Clark joked. “It just depends on where you are.”
Throughout their service year in their chosen city, many of the AmeriCorps members attributed their rewarding experience to NOAHH volunteer groups. AmeriCorps Direct Bernadette Smith glowed when reminiscing on some of the people she built with.
“I liked working with the volunteers close to my age,” Smith said. “It was interesting to see what brought them to New Orleans and what they were going through…I liked connecting with new people.”
Even so, it wasn’t all talk; there were some important skills to be learned. The AmeriCorps leaders learned how to manage volunteers, which is sometimes more of a challenge than expected.
“If you can manage a group of rowdy high schoolers for 9 hours on a construction site… then you can probably do anything,” Silver said.
After working on site, AmeriCorps members also became close with the Partner Families who were building their new homes. They would work side by side with the brave individuals working to better their lives.
“It is amazing to hear the stories of the NOAHH partner families’ resilience in the face of one of the most tragic national disasters this country has seen. They are truly hardworking, deserving people, and working with them has been an essential part of my time here,” Silver added.
Rebecca Cottingham thanks her fellow AmeriCorps members as the highlight of her success. She said the group was very close after many of them experienced their first hurricane season together.
“But the overall highlight…was exploring New Orleans with the others,” Cottingham said.
So what’s next for this close-knit volunteer family? Many of them are off to get their master degrees, while others will be attending college for the first time. They all plan to remember and use what they’ve learned during the time they served.
“After my experience at NOAHH, I have a better understanding of poverty in the United States and the great opportunities the non-profit world offers,” Cottingham said. “If a motivated individual seizes the opportunities offered to them they can break the cycle of poverty and provide a better life for their families.”
NOAHH sends a big thank you to those who contributed to its mission: Jessica Bartlett, Faith Cerny, Evan Clark, Joe Gillespie-Hill, Allie Kochanski, John Malone, Katie Nguyen, Hannah Silver, Bernadette Smith, and Joshua Tracey.
AmeriCorps is a Corporation for National and Community Service program started in 1994 to provide assistance and create programs to improve communities throughout America. Since its inception, over 800,000 people have joined AmeriCorps in providing nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and faith-based organizations with support and hard work. For more information, visit the AmeriCorps website.”