After returning from three months of disaster relief volunteer work in New Orleans, I found it more more important than ever to share my experiences with fellow peers. I had my grandmother bake several tasty treats to begin fund raising and speaking out against what I saw happening in my, our country. As my fellow peers were lured in by the baked goods, I was able to infiltrate their ears with a story and their eyes through the power of photography. At that time, it had only been one year since Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast.
To my amazement, my peer's reaction was resoundingly positive in their response that something in-fact needed to be done, instead of "Wow that's horrible, what can I Do?." The reaction was, "What are we going to do?" Our meetings started small; at first only five or six. But soon enough, we were fourteen strong and we knew we were going together to Louisiana at the end of our spring semester. We had to raise money for this to be attainable. We realized that the college campus was our prime audience to get people to come together for the rally cry of this much needed cause. Our "Evening with a Voice" event at Haverford University raised ample funds and awareness.
Soon after, we came into contact with an extraordinary individual that happened to own a busing and transport company. After explaining to him our dilemma of transportation, he was much obliged to help us and provided free passenger vans for safe route to Louisiana. Our collective began kicking on all cylinders and we were now poised to leave at the end of the semester. As our volunteers got readjusted back into their own lives upon arrival in New Jersey, we soon realized that this trip was no isolated incident. For our trip at the end of this current spring semester, we have fund raised twice the money and have twice the amount of volunteers traveling with for this years trip. Our work is not only designated to Louisiana, but has grown locally through finding neighborhood children subsidized music lessons from local musicians, weekend projects at community non-profits, and the birth of the NOLA Adventure After School Club. The after school program was a long time coming as far as maneuvering around red tape, but we have been able to secure seven sessions.
The sky is the limit as long as we ban together to solve problems and as a collective unit we can accomplish anything.
Collectively, we have been able to organize volunteers that have traveled great distances to witness a great American tragedy. There has been a loss of life, there continues to be a lower standard of living, and we are losing a piece of our American culture. The best way for America to retain this story is through the youth. As we expose students in the after school program to New Orleans culture, it will only take one student wanting a trumpet lesson, one student creating a vibrant Zulu mask, or even one student enjoying a fun-filled afternoon on a Friday he/she would have normally spent wandering the neighborhood unmotivated and unattended for. We will measure the success of our project through the creative pathways that students journey on during our seven sessions together.
If our trip to Buras, Louisiana taught us anything, it opened up our eyes to the world of possibility with children if you are willing to put in the effort. Our time spent at the day care center at the "450" FEMA trailer park left the children with a memory of the volunteers from New Jersey and us with a collective mission for the future to not only be involved in disaster relief in Louisiana but in our own community's social mobility. Both of these are joined at the hip because both are America: America's problems, America's triumphs, and America's future, and through this experience we saw our role in the American equation. We are working to create the proper canvas for students to express their individuality as they become the storytellers and not just pupils. Jazz music is a dying art form, and for its legacy to continue, this generation of young people must be exposed to it. We, as a collective group, expect to learn just as much from these kids as we hope to teach them.