On Nov. 8, delegates can choose from a wide range of social service projects for the Day of Service, which will be from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. There are 1100 slots at four off-site volunteer opportunities.
Some will travel to Beacon of Hope, for a clean-up effort at homes in the Lower Ninth Ward that have not yet been rebuilt. Five years after Katrina, many of the homes in the Lower Ninth Ward are still tied up in court over who has legal ownership of the home. If the houses and areas surrounding them are not kept in good condition, the homes can be cited as a blight and repossessed by the city.
Other volunteers will visit City Park, where there will be four teams tackling separate projects, including mulching two miles of forest trails, painting fences, railings and walls, shoreline tree and grass planting, stringing lights for the annual park lighting display and shoreline clean-up.
Some will do insulation work and mold remediation at homes being rebuilt by the St. Bernard Project. The project has rebuilt 280 homes and is working on 50 more.
While most Jews are familiar with planting trees in Israel, some delegates will get to do that in New Orleans with KaTREEna. Over 100,000 trees were lost to Katrina, and this organization is working to replant trees all over the city.
There will be four options for going to site visits without physically rolling up sleeves. The visits are to provide educational experiences for delegates, meeting with New Orleans non-profit leaders, with an emphasis on work being done five years after the storm.
Tracks include Jewish New Orleans, New Orleans Today, Katrina at 5 (touring the Lower Ninth Ward) and the Environment.
Still others can stay at the GA venues for workshops and a service project. At 12:30 p.m., there will be panels on “Funding Jewish Social Justice: Perspectives from Donors” and “Elevating Social Justice From Inside The System.” At 2 p.m., delegates will work with UNITY, creating kits for the homeless in New Orleans who live in abandoned buildings. Another type of kit will be assembled for the newly-housed. Volunteers will make 1000 of each kit.
At 4 p.m., there will be a second set of panels, “Volunteering Through Disaster: How Katrina Changed the Face of Volunteerism” and “What’s Jewish About Jewish Service Learning.”
New Orleans certainly knows about how Katrina changed the face of volunteering. Since the storm, Jewish groups from across the country have come to spend a few days or a few months volunteering in the rebuilding effort, and even five years later, groups are still coming.