Now that I've been back at work for almost a week, the bruises and scratches are healing and I feel like I can talk a little bit about the experienceI had last week. To put it succinctly, it was amazing! There were people from all over the world that came together in several sites along the Gulf Coast to work on housing projects contributing to the rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. I spent the week in Biloxi doing what they call a "build blitz" -an entire new house done in a week. Well, it was actually only mostly done by the end of the week - rain the two last days slowed up down and there were some timing issues with contractors that delayed our work inside the house but we did manage to get the exterior completely done in the 5 days we had which was still pretty amazing.
I haven't gone thru my pictures yet, but will put some up eventually. Instead, I have a link to my appearance on the local news in Mississippi. Please keep in mind that this was the 4th day out on site, it had been raining all morning and I never got more than 5 hours sleep each night I was there. Do not get blinded by my beauty - HAH! I never like to see myself in pictures (or on tv) but I have to say that I'm fairly happy with my ability to sound somewhat intelligent and not come off as completely ridiculous.
My house crew was really great - mostly AmeriCorps members from other Habitat affiliates all over the country (and mostly folks who work on the construction sites every day), but also some folks from the Biloxi area and other volunteers. Oddly enough, I had one volunteer on my crew who was from Kansas City - and she's actually come to my office and been thru our volunteer orientation before! We chuckled about that and had a great time the first few days while she and her daughter were there. One of the really cool things about my site was that we had some executives from one of the big casino/hotels in town out on the site. We had no idea who they were - everyone was just working on getting the house done and getting along great until lunch time on the first rainy day and all of a sudden a large number of fresh hot pizzas were delivered to the site. It turned out that one of our guys was actually the CEO of the hotel and he bought lunch for everyone! I did feel a little bad that the other sites watched us eating pizza while they were still waiting for the Salvation Army to deliver their lunches, but it was so good!
The other really cool thing about this project was getting to see Jimmy & Rosalyn Carter working alongside everyone and bringing all of these amazing people together. There was a lot of work that went into coordinating this project and everyone was very humble and made sure to include everyone else in the credit for it all. Jimmy & Rosalynn came around to all of the work sites and took pictures with each crew (I can't wait to see that one), and we got DVD's of the opening and closing ceremonies as well as a "week in review" montage that had some great shots of John Edwards, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, and lots of other folks who were a part of the project. I know there was tons of stuff I didn't get to see or do (including going over to Gulfport to see what Gulfside Assembly looks like currently) but I felt like I did get to a part of something amazing. Next year's Carter project will be in China/Thailand/Cambodia area - another multi-site project which sounds like it would be an incredible experience. Anyone want to sponsor me to go? How about coming along?