Florida teen reflects on week of service in NOLA
When most people think of mission trips, they envision teens and adults visiting Third World, impoverished countries. Little do they realize the poverty that plagues their own country, perhaps even their own towns.
For the past five years, I have attended mission trips coordinated by Young Neighbors in Action. Established in 1991, Young Neighbors in Action is a Catholic organization that provides week-long service trips that integrate Catholic social teaching into service projects benefiting cities all around the United States, including Buffalo, New York; San Francisco; Gallup, New Mexico; and New Orleans.
Teen participants come from parishes and high schools all over the United States – from Wisconsin to Texas to Massachusetts – with one purpose: service.
I, along with six other teens and two adult chaperones from St. Joseph Catholic Church in Bradenton, Florida, spent June 19-25 in New Orleans. It was an experience I will never forget.
Our overall group of 91 teens and adult chaperones came together to help better the city of New Orleans in any way we could.
While in New Orleans, I worked with the organization Urban Conservancy, which takes on various projects connected with the issue of storm water management. My group went out into the neighborhoods of New Orleans and put flyers on every door to let people know of the growing problem of flooding, which is being caused by the storm water.
Though this work may seem minuscule, it informed citizens of the problem, which if not fixed, could cause the city of New Orleans to sink.
Walking around these neighborhoods, I was fully submerged in the culture of New Orleans, which will never fail to leave you amazed at the strength of the citizens of The Big Easy who, after the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and all that followed, never lost hope that their city would recover.
The service did not stop at our work sites, though. My peers constantly helped one an other in any way possible, whether it was by lending a hand with dishes or just lending their time and attention. I have never met a more helpful, caring and compassionate group of teenagers who dedicated their time and talents to help out those less fortunate than themselves.
I learned the value of community and the strength in numbers when helping organizations that will ultimately change the lives of the citizens of New Orleans.
The trip was a remarkable adventure that gave us a chance to really see the poverty in our country and an opportunity to serve – a lesson, I believe, that will live on in us as we return to our towns and, hopefully, continue to serve.
Molly Klabik is an incoming freshman at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.