Students and faculty work to restore New Orleans

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Sacred Heart Upper School students in New Orleans. Courtesy of Juliana Collins '19

Sacred Heart Greenwich students and faculty members travelled to New Orleans, Louisiana for the annual, mid-winter break community service trip. The Sacred Heart Upper School group consisted of six sophomores, two juniors, and two faculty chaperones.
Upper School Academic Dean, Network Exchange Coordinator, and Director of Summer Enrichment Mrs. Jennifer Bensen along with Physical Education Teacher and Coach Ms. Lindsay Thompson led the Sacred Heart team while in New Orleans.
The group stayed at Duchesne House for Volunteers, a hospitality house that the Religious of the Sacred Heart operates. Sister Bonnie Kearney and Sister Maureen Chicoine welcomed the group when they arrived February 11. The group stayed at Duchesne House for Volunteers until it departed from New Orleans February 17.
Sacred Heart volunteers participated in a variety of projects at the homes of various New Orleans residents. Specifically, the group spent time in the Lower Ninth Ward, a neighborhood recovering from the devastation it endured as a result of Hurricane Katrina 11 years ago and more recently, destructive tornadoes.

Sacred Heart Greenwich volunteers with their St. Bernard Project leader Zach in New Orleans.
Courtesy of Mrs. Jennifer Bensen

The team had many goals when it initially embarked on the trip, including gaining a better understanding of poverty, and learning how to advocate for others.
“Our goals are multi-faceted. First, we want the girls to understand the way in which the devastation wrought by Katrina had a long lasting impact, and we also want the girls to understand that they can use their talents to help those in need. Finally, we want the students to advocate on behalf of those whose voices are not heard because of homelessness or poverty,” Director of Upper School Social Justice and Service and Upper School Theology Teacher Mrs. Kerry Bader said.
The group worked in coordination with the St. Bernard Project, an organization started in 2006 that focuses on providing support and construction aid to families attempting to rebuild following natural disasters, according to st.bernardproject.org
“The group will engage in physical tasks like painting and raising scaffolds and will also engage in learning activities so that they can more fully understand the struggles that exist today,” Mrs. Bader said. 
Due to the recent tornadoes, many homes needed cleaning and repairing in New Orleans East. The students removed debris from residents’ yards and houses.
Every night following a long day’s work, the group gathered to reflect and discuss the highlights of their day in the chapel at Duchesne House. The students shared information about their days spent in New Orleans with the entire Upper School community through daily journal entries on shared Google Documents.
“Together as a group we recognized that each person we met this week, whether it was a homeowner or a volunteer, gave us a greater appreciation of our community and helped us to understand that New Orleans is a place full of rich culture,” the Sacred Heart volunteers wrote collaboratively on the Google Document.
Through this community service trip, the Sacred Heart volunteers were able to connect with New Orleans residents and experience life in a different part of the United States. While the volunteers were not working, they spent their time exploring the city of New Orleans. 
Sacred Heart Greenwich volunteers helped clean up debris after a tornado in New Orleans East.
Courtesy of Mrs. Jennifer Bensen

Sister Maureen led the group on a Faith Tour of New Orleans, which featured areas such as the Bayou, the Lower Ninth Ward, and the French Quarter. In the French Quarter, the group visited Saint Louis Cathedral, Café Du Monde, the French Market, and the Katrina and Beyond exhibit at the Louisiana State Museum.
On their final night, the volunteers visited the home of Chief David, the Chief of an Indian tribe in New Orleans. Chief David spoke to the volunteers about the Indian traditions surrounding Mardi Gras, which included songs and Indian Mardi Gras parade costumes. Additionally, Chief David recited a poem that he had written for the volunteers.
During their week in New Orleans, the Sacred Heart volunteers were able to hear the stories of New Orleans residents and homeowners.
“I really enjoyed meeting all of the homeowners and people of New Orleans who were affected by the tornado,” sophomore Julia Veber said. “It was rewarding to help them get back on their feet.”
-Katie McCabe, Staff Writer