Focus on New Orleans: NJ Teens Talk About Volunteer Trip
Juliana Kravitz, 12, Norwood, NJ: Well, I needed something to do for my mitzvah project [for her upcoming Bat Mitzvah] but I didn't know what! When my mom found this activity in the Jewish Standard, I knew it would be perfect. I really wanted to do something special and different than everyone else. Something that would really help people and show that I care. I had so much fun on this trip and I don't ever regret coming!
Ben Shaiman, 14, Wayne, NJ: My mom told me about this trip in September. I obviously knew about Katrina, but I never knew how bad the damage really was. I came to New Orleans to just help build some houses and get some community service time for school. I found out while I was there that I did much more. I gave people hope and a place to live. After realizing this, I felt like I really made a difference in someone's life and it really felt good.
Josh Freeman, 14, Wyckoff, NJ: Basically, my mom asked me if I was interested in going on the trip. I said, "Yeah, it sounds a bit interesting." And before I knew it, I was in New Orleans.
Danny Klyde, 14, Wyckoff, NJ: The reason that I wanted to go on this trip was simply because I knew that it was my duty as a US citizen to help out my fellow Americans. We are so quick to act and help other countries in need, but we are still trying to clean up from Katrina, some five or six years later.
Did the trip live up to your expectations?
Josh: The trip was amazing. It was so much better then what I expected. I really learned so much more then I expected to and even the work was fun. I never expected it to be such a learning experience and still have as much fun as I did.
What did you know about Katrina and New Orleans before coming down here?
Juliana: I didn't really know anything. All I knew was that a lot of nice people lived there and that there was a hurricane.
So, what have you learned after a few days of non-stop activity, helping and looking around?
Juliana: Well, I learned that the people here still need a lot of help from the storm.
You can say that again! What was your favorite part of the trip?
Ben: I really enjoyed working at Just the Right Attitude [food bank/soup kitchen in NOLA East]. It was very inspirational to hear the stories of all the people working there. It was also very fulfilling knowing I helped bring food to a family in dire need.
Delivering food through Just the Right Attitude mobile kitchen
Juliana: My favorite part of the trip was doing all the fun activities in the city. It was a lot of fun and I learned about the culture and heritage of New Orleans.
Josh: My favorite part of the trip was definitely listening to all of the great stories that people told. Especially the one of our bus driver who had to drive people to Houston many times. [Note: Stay tuned for that interview!]
Would you recommend this trip to your friends? Do you think you'd come again?
Ben: I would 110% recommend this trip to a friend. I have already talked to friends and asked them if they would be interested. I am actually also planning on coming back for the trip next year and for other trips after that.
Danny: This trip was an eye-opening experience for me and I could only hope that everyone could do something like this. If my friends had the time, I would definitely recommend they go on this trip. The trip was just a glimpse of what New Orleans was like after Katrina. There are still some dilapidated houses left and I think everyone should get to help out this city get back on its feet.
working on house in St. Bernard Parish
Juliana: I would recommend this trip to my friends because it was fun and a good deed/mitzvah.
Josh: I would definitely recommend the trip to friends. It really was a fantastic trip and everyone should enjoy it.
Anything else you'd like to tell our readers about volunteering, New Orleans or anything else, for that matter?
Juliana: New Orleans is such a fun city. The people are so welcoming and it is a trip that you won't regret taking. Volunteering is making the city better so if you want to see New Orleans beautiful again, volunteer to help out. Next trip is January, the same day as my Bat Mitzvah.
It just occurred to me that our readers would probably like to know a little about you, like what you enjoy doing when you're back at home.
Josh: Well, I like to play basketball and tennis a lot but I also love playing pick-up games of any sport. I play video games and watch tv like any other kid. I love hanging out with my brothers but now that they are at college, I am slightly lonely.
Ben: I enjoy sports and I play basketball and lacrosse. I am preparing for the new basketball season which is starting in the next few weeks. I also enjoy sports writing. I spend most of my time (the little time I have between sports and athletics) hanging out with friends and enjoying life.
Juliana: Well, I cheerlead for the Raiders with Norwood and Harrington Park. I am obsessed with fashion magaizines. I also love to make videos with my friends on iMovie and love to dance. Shopping is what I love to do and I go to the mall at least once a week (if I'm allowed) I like dogs and have one named Scooby. And I love to help people.
You are terrific kids and I enjoyed working with you in New Orleans. Have a good year and thanks for talking with me!
Other articles in the Focus on New Orleans series (with more to come):
Focus on New Orleans: Time Out with Jermaine Wiltz, AKA Coach J November 10, 2010
Focus on New Orleans: "Build for James" Project Honors Americorps Teammate November 12, 2010
Focus on New Orleans: NJ Group's 7th Klene-Up Krewe Since Katrina November 14, 2010
Author's Bio: Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of transparency and the ability to accurately check and authenticate the vote cast, these systems can alter election results and therefore are simply antithetical to democratic principles and functioning. Since the pivotal 2004 Presidential election, Joan has come to see the connection between a broken election system, a dysfunctional, corporate media and a total lack of campaign finance reform. This has led her to enlarge the parameters of her writing to include interviews with whistle-blowers and articulate others who give a view quite different from that presented by the mainstream media. She also turns the spotlight on activists and ordinary folks who are striving to make a difference, to clean up and improve their corner of the world. By focusing on these intrepid individuals, she gives hope and inspiration to those who might otherwise be turned off and alienated. She also interviews people in the arts in all their variations - authors, journalists, filmmakers, actors, playwrights, and artists. Why? The bottom line: without art and inspiration, we lose one of the best parts of ourselves. And we're all in this together. If Joan can keep even one of her fellow citizens going another day, she considers her job well done. Joan has been Election Integrity Editor for OpEdNews since December, 2005. Her articles also appear at RepublicMedia.TV and Scoop.co.nz.
Nov. 20, 2010