Upper School students travel to New Orleans for service trip
Ceci Duncan '21 was one of nine students who attended the annual Upper School service trip to New Orleans. Over the course of thefive-day trip, the students and chaperones volunteered with the St. Bernard's Project. The group stayed at Duchesne House for Volunteers and worked in Baton Rouge each day on a rebuild project. Enjoy Ceci's reflection on the time spent in New Orleans below.
On the second day of our trip to New Orleans, the chaperones, other students, and I woke up and headed to the chapel in the Duchesne House for a morning reflection. Since it was the first anniversary of the Parkland shootings, we read about those who passed during the attack and watched a music video made by the survivors that showed their strength. We prayed for the victims and their families. Then, we prepared our breakfasts and lunches. We picked up coffee at our favorite local café, CC’s, and headed towards the house that we were fixing, in Baton Rouge. The 2017 Louisiana flood completely consumed the home and forced the homeowner, Dolores, and her family to flee for their safety.
There, we met our friendly co-volunteers. The head worker, Austin, taught us how to sand and mud walls. We spread out across the one-story, five-room house, set up a speaker, and got to work. Working with each other throughout the day bonded us and instilled values of teamwork, leadership, and reliability.
Before lunch, we were lucky to meet Gloria, Delores’s sister. Gloria revealed that she had been without the home for two years (she was living in an apartment) and missed it dearly, especially during the holidays, as it was where her family gathered. To hear her excitement over receiving a table and chairs reminded us of how lucky we are to have or homes, and taught us to never take anything for granted. Gloria reflected that it is her faith that keeps her going. We lastly took a photo with her. Her story inspired us to try our hardest throughout our service, so that she may have a strong and beautiful house.
At lunch, Austin bought us authentic Baton Rouge cuisine. We were thankful for the opportunity to immerse ourselves in a new culture.
We were sad to leave the work site at the end of the first day but excited for the next two days there. We learned from Austin that together, we had performed 77 hours of work—two days of work in only one. All in all, we strengthened our friendships with each other and became more responsible leaders. We were moved by Gloria’s story and not only felt compassion but learned to be grateful for what we have and that our faith can get us through even the toughest of times. We are very thankful to have had the opportunity to help reconstruct Dolores’s house.
Later that night, we went under the highway to bring dinner to the homeless persons living there. Many years ago, the Louisiana government demolished a thriving neighborhood and placed a state-wide intersection in its ruins. The former residents lost their homes but still live there, under the road.
They were very grateful to accept our seafood gumbo, rice, and bread. Additionally, they told others of our leftover dinner, rather than taking the extra food for themselves. Their kindness and friendliness were inspirational, as it taught us that during tough times, we must hold our heads high and keep our spirits up.
We also saw that the men and women had decorated their tents, with flowers and Bible verses and everything in between. Seeing them make the best of their situations and keep a strong faith reminded us that we should always do the same, for a positive mindset and a strong relationship with God are powerful.
Finally, as we were leaving, we noticed two men helping a third, whom they did not know and who was wheelchair-bound, to cross the street. From visiting the community under the bridge, we saw how important it is to be kind and friendly, as well as to maintain a positive mindset and faith. Going forward, we will replicate their compassion and love in our own lives and communities.