Well, this is it, the last day in New Orleans (and we did it right). We started our day with our whole group making it to breakfast around 7 and then we left Camp Restore around 8:30. We went to Lake Pontchartrain (more like an estuary because it is a mix of salt water and river/rain water). We worked with the Basin Foundation which is an organization that is just trying to bring back the wetlands and save the lake and help prevent things like Hurricane Katrina. They were able to open up the lake in 2001 after water testing showed it was clear but after Katrina they had to close for a bit again. So our journey took us to Bayou Saint John (which is a natural waterway, a route that was first taken by the French to find the city of New Orleans, it was the very first waterway used for New Orleans) and when we got to the bayou the flood gate was open (they open it once a month to freshen the lake water and make sure the gate still works).
Now here’s the exciting bit from our volunteering today, we were about 10 minutes into volunteering when we were all told to immediately rush back. Apparently the flood gate workers saw a gator in the marsh we were all working next to (unfortunately we didn’t spot the gator ourselves). After about a ten minute wait the workers lost sight of the gator we were sent back to work on clean up, we all stayed safe and the gator was not seen the rest of the time. During our clean up we found a vertebrae to something, but mostly it was straws and plastic bottle caps. A lot of us talked about how doing this volunteer activity specifically impacted us and felt like something we could bring back and change in Oshkosh/where we are from.
After we finished up at the bayou we returned to lighthouse we started at. We were given a tour of the lighthouse, learned all about it’s history. So at lighthouse there is the new basin canal that used to go all the way to where the Superdome is. This was a passageway made by the Americans who didn’t want to share with the French. First lighthouse in 1839 didn’t do so well and two lighthouses later, 1890, that one stood for about 100 years until Katrina. After Katrina they rebuilt the lighthouse and used several of the same shutters and other pieces they were able to save from the previous one. Tom Benson (RIP) helped rebuild the lighthouse after Katrina with a substantial financial donation. So then before we left we drew with chalk on the ground “UWO AB 2018” and took our picture with it. Then we headed back to Camp Restore for our speaker.
So earlier this week we talked about how we fundraised a large sum to buy things like feminine products, shampoo, and toothbrushes/toothpaste for the organization Voice of the Experienced. This organization was founded and is run by people who were formerly incarcerated. This organization focuses on policy and law–real reform that effects change and release. One interesting fact that was taken away is we learned that Victoria’s Secret PINK underwear is made by people incarcerated. After talking with Dolfinette Martin, lead organizer for VOTE, a lot of us started questioning what we can do for people incarcerated back in Oshkosh/home.
After our visit with Dolfinette we got ready for our last night in New Orleans. We had a short reflection before leaving the camp at 5:15 and heading to Wednesday at the Square. This was a free event with food and live music. Some of us got this awesome combo platter, others a delicious jambalaya. People got crepes for dessert and we got listen to live music, blues and jazz. Then we walked around and looked at the vendors before we left and went to Canal Street. Canal Street is kind of like Hollywood Blvd in LA with all the palm trees and lights and shops and such for people to go to. After that we went home and now it’s playing some werewolf and going to bed because 5:00 AM leave time will be coming quick.
And now for the favorites:
Clare: “My favorite part of today was spending time at Lafayette Square listening to music and enjoying the great food!”
Karis: “I loved spending the evening in Lafayette Square and eating jambalaya.”
Ann: “My favorite part was getting to spend some time by the water and enjoy the view from the lighthouse.”
Olivia: “I loved learning about Dolfinette’s story and being inspired! It was an amazing testimony and mission!”
Kalee: “It was interesting hearing the environmental issues New Orleans is still facing and their plans for the future. My favorite part was Dolfinette’s story and the work she does!”
Emily W.: “I loved volunteering at the marsh today! It was so much fun and really showed how much trash is being put into the environment from humans and how much it can accumulate over time.”
Emily T.: “Today was probably my favorite day of volunteering. We were at risk of an alligator being present and just being with everyone made the experience much more fun and chill. It’s bittersweet to be leaving so soon already but we ended the night perfectly at the free event at Lafayette Square with good food.”
Jackie: “My favorite part of the day was learning more about the environmental science and ecology in Louisiana. I still wish we would have seen that alligator we were on the lookout for though. I really enjoyed hearing Miss Dolfinette’s story and how she turned her challenging experience into an opportunity to help others in the similar situations. Our group reflection was also really impactful and I loved hearing everyone’s thoughts and take aways from the week.”
Madison: “My favorite part of the day was being able to balance the amazing and impactful volunteering with having fun and seeing the night life! Being able to partake in the community by going to the Wednesday on the Square (my favorite was the banana crepes). Our speaker was truly inspiring today as well and I can’t wait to bring back idea for events similar to her organization here in Louisiana! (Along with the almost being eaten by a gator, but not really haha).”
Natasha: “Today showed me that I need to work on my recycling habits and stop using plastic straws/bags especially. Today really helped me understand how much I love the city life too.”