Alternative Service Breaks

During spring break I had the amazing opportunity to volunteer in New Orleans, Louisiana. The city is so full of history and no matter where you are, the atmosphere changes quickly. You could be walking down the nicest street and all of sudden you see beautiful buildings torn apart. This city has been through more than you would ever know. It’s easy to get caught up in glamour of volunteering, taking pictures and showing people what you’re doing but that’s all smoke and mirrors. Once you hear the stories and realize why you’re there, the glamour goes away and you appreciate what you have and what you’re doing.

My first day, I learned that the public school system had failed and there was only charter schools. The buildings of public schools still remain… empty. Since the recent tornado that ripped through the city, a charter school was temporarily moved to an old public school building. We made posters for the children, with their school name, mascot, and colors. The children saw us making these posters and immediately their eyes became wide with joy, they had posters of their school within a school that wasn’t theirs. The children joy was enough, but the teachers were so appreciative to see some color in their life

The second day, my favorite, we went to Apex Youth Center. The building was old, but it was coming along. We did small maintenance around the building, clean the kitchen, bathrooms, and windows. My writing alone cannot tell you the story behind that youth center. It’s been there for 9 years, but there is so much passion, love, history, and care put into that building. These two amazing couple who run everything themselves, left everything to live in “the hood” to provide for those who can’t provide for themselves. The couple offers a second home to the youth up to young adults. The stories that were told will break you heart and are so personal that I cannot share them but just know this couple would stop everything that their doing, just to rescue someone.

They run everything themselves, they are a two people staff that fight to keep that building alive. They teach the youth that it’s okay to be expression and that every voice matters. They occasionally have volunteers come to host programs like yoga or music class. Everything is based off donations or what the couple can come by. Seeing the growth of that youth center makes me want to come back and open up opportunities for new learning experiences.

photo source
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