MARIANIST VOLUNTEER BUILDS HOMES AND COMMUNTY IN NEW ORLEANS
Marianist volunteer John Graziano began his volunteer experience last August helping Catholic Charities gut houses in New Orleans devastated by Hurricane Katrina. “I couldn’t believe the scope of the damage,” said John. “You could drive 15 miles in any direction and it was the same thing.”
We recently asked John to reflect on his volunteer experience and time in New Orleans.
What was your initial reaction to working in New Orleans? “It was different being here at first because of the destructive nature of the work, but wonderful when I recognized why I was doing the work and who it was for. It could become just a job, if I let it, but when I had time to reflect, I could see the work was helping others.”
What are you working on now? “I’m getting materials to sites and staying one step ahead of the contractors. I miss the physical work, but I have more time to talk with the homeowners and hear their stories.”
What’s the most incredible story you have heard? “I made a friend. She’s 75 years old, and she has a friend that lives with her that she’s been taking care of. They didn’t evacuate because her friend was not physically able to move. When the water came, she carried her friend in waist high water up to a neighbor’s fire escape. They spent a week on the roof before they were rescued. Stories like this are typical here. They did what they had to do.”
What has been your most rewarding experience so far? “We had some UD students come and work and hear stories from the homeowners and community organizers. At the end of the week, one student said she just wanted to thank me for the work I was doing. She said the trip was an eye-opening experience and she wants to get more involved. Her genuineness helped me to stay motivated.”
What have you learned from being a Marianist volunteer? “It has been a great growth experience. As my first real full time job, it has shown me what I am capable of and has taught me to be more self-reliant. In addition to volunteering, I have coworkers who value my opinion. A big lesson was that I was able to find community in a new place. I know now that it might take a little work, but I will always be able to find a community of people to be with.