The key lesson I learned is that people are resilient. Tears shimmered in the eyes of Butch: a grandfather and father who had lost every belonging. From the pictures of his parents to the gun collection he planned to passed to his children, all of it was gone. However, every day he came to the tatters of his home and helped us gut and sanitize it so it could be rebuilt. He smiled as he worked and told tales of what had happened there. At times it seemed an ear was all he needed to feel supported and heard. He was eternally grateful for our help; he promised to send us a picture of the house once fully rebuilt with his family.
Resilience is something he had learned, although the grief was still present which increased my interest in the field I would like to pursue: international disaster psychology. I want to be there at the forefront of a disaster helping those that need support to learn that eventually in time life will be better again. This ties in with my core essence. Not many of you know this, but I have suffered from depression. There are days that getting out of bed and smiling were hard. Through my work I have learned to accept what I am and still live a life I love. I greet each day now as a day that will happen as it's meant to and acknowledge that with the bad that good is never far around the corner. There is so much to be grateful for! If you ever feel that there is not, then please reach out to me and I will try to be there for you!
Getting back to my volunteer experience with All Hands... we spent days from 8-4/4:30 mucking and gutting homes as well as sanitizing them for mold. Drywall and insulation were removed, nails were plied from wood, sweeping commenced and then the walls were eventually vacuumed and scrubbed inch by inch so that they could be sprayed with a mold deterrent. The work was exhausting and grueling in the hot humid homes that lacked both light and air conditioning, but it was rewarding. The bond you form with your work crew is incredible due to the nature of the work performed together. I'm happy to say I have some life long friends all over the world because of this trip. Memories include drinks at Charlie's, feeding the turtles, runs with my running buddies, karaoke, and just living and laughing together.
I was also fortunate to have some off time in which I went swamp camping and bayou kayaking for the first time, while trying to escape the wrath of Mosquitos. Atchafalaya wildlife refuge is a great place to see possums, wild boars, spiders, and alligators. Another venture included my first music festival: voodoo in New Orleans which had a diversity of music and costumes with weed smoke filling the air.
Louisiana was healing for me and I fell in love with the beautiful bayou. The humidity slowly became bearable as I noticed the colorful scenery and experienced the local culture. Some day I hope to be back and until then I am grateful for the memories.