Basile Mazon had never been on a construction site before he volunteered to join the Habitat for Humanity club at the American School of Paris. He got his chance last year, when they went to Romania to volunteer. He says the experience changed his life.
“Before that, I never did community service or helped on a bigger scale. Going there and getting to met hte families, I actually got to see how we complain a lot about things that are so irrelevant compared to what otehrs go through. That completely changed my perspective. it mad eme feel bad about how I was complaining about my pizza being cold when people have homes that don’t even have water.”
“It’s such a great experience,” said Duncan McEachern, one of the teachers on the trip. “It’s great to see an opportunity for these kids who do have advantages in life have an interest in giving back and trying to do this kind of thing.”
This year, his school chose to come to New Orleans to volunteer. Ten students and two teachers came to the city to give back and help build in New Orleans East, picking the city because of the need in the city.
“We came because of the culture of the city,” said Duncan, “But also because in our memory, there’s a real need here because of Katrina. We said this would be a good place to have a cultural experience <I>and</i> be able to be of service.”
“I went to the French Quarter last night,” said Basile. “It’s a beautiful place. The city actually has a little Paris here. We can kinda find some Paris with all the balconies. We also saw some Spanish traits. I’ll definitely come back.”
The students raise funds throughout the year to make their annual trips. The club meets weekly, and the president–Basile–organizes the logistics of the fundraisers and the trips. Basile got involved in 2016 because of people he knew in the program and because of his school’s community service requirement, but the first trip inspired him to do more. Duncan joined when a colleague who had been organizing the trips took a different job.
“It really just caught on with me,” Duncan said. “I really enjoy it now. It’s a lot of work because we have to do a lot of fundrasiing to keep the cost of the trip down, but it helps give us an organizing point and focus.”
Many of the students who are new to the trip are like Basile was the year before, completely unexperienced in construction work. One student had never even used a shovel before she came on the trip. Their lack of experience doesn’t deter them, and with NOAHH’s staff there to guide them, they get a lot done.
“They’re super excited and they dive in,” said Duncan. “They don’t have any trepidation about it. They’re not shy about trying. They know why they’re here. They’re here to work.”
“We’re showing to others that helping and being a volunteer is fun,” said Basile. “We have a lot of fun on the work site. We play music and we dance as well as work.”