May 19, 2008


Reflecting on the Gulf Coast

I Just got back from the Gulf Coast.

The AmeriCorps Build-A-Thon was rolled into the Jimmy and Rasalynn Carter Work Project this year, and it was a much bigger event, with people from around the world, from as far away as Ireland and New Zealand, and from many Habitat Affiliates coming together to lend a hand.

I posted some photos from this year's trip here.

This was my second trip to the Gulf Coast, the first being last year's Build-A-Thon. (Here is my post about that trip (and here's a photo album for that trip)). There were a lot of dissimilarities between this year and last even being in the same location. The JRCWP was much grander in scale than last year's Build-A-Thon, but I guess that is to be expected when you associate an event like this with a former president. Last year we lived in volunteer housing built into refurbished bleachers. This year we were put up in fancy casino hotels. Instead of working on only new construction, the volunteers also worked on rehabing existing damaged homes, as well as framing lots of wall sections for future construction. My group was working on rehabing a damaged home. So I learned a few new things, and I met a lot of interesting people. Overall, it felt a lot more like a paid vacation than a work week, and I'm really grateful for the experience.

One thing that really struck me about the week was the quality of the video production for the events and speeches. The presentation involved live footage combined with prepared footage that was nothing short of what you would see at a professional sporting event. I was really impressed by President Carter's wit when he spoke to the volunteers, and impressed by his dedication to Habitat's mission. Next year's JRCWP will be in Southern Asia, along the Mekong river. I hope I can find a way to go.

It felt a little odd to revisit the place where we lived last year, Yankie Stadium, with a different crew of people, a year later. Living in casinos was pretty awesome -- Besides a pool, the nice beds, and having just one roommate instead of six, there were all the nice amenities that staying in a casino affords.

After not doing very well at the slots I discovered a decent arcade at the nearby casino and enjoyed wasting money on Galaga a lot more than throwing it away in gambling machines.

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