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A Good Time Doing Good

Catholic Charities voluteers hand out hugs and canned goods
Catholic Charities voluteers hand out hugs and canned goods
Common Ground volutneers in the 9th Ward
Common Ground's 9th Ward Project Volunteers
Habitat for Humanity college groups at a wall raising for a home
Habitat for Humanity college groups at a wall raising for a home
Hands On Volunteers at work
Impact Ministries works with local churches to provide volunteers and disaster relief
Kidsmart teaches kids positive life skills through the arts.
Kidsmart teaches kids positive life skills through the arts.
Volunteers from around the world come to participate in the Mardi Gras Service Corps
Volunteers from around the world come to participate in the Mardi Gras Service Corps
RHINO project volunteers
RHINO project volunteers worked with Habitat for Humanity to rebuild homes

The cast of television’s The Guiding Light spent a week this winter rebuilding houses on the ravaged Gulf Coast. Not wanting the celebrity treatment they typically receive, the actors and actresses lived in dorms with the other Hands On (see below) volunteers. They woke before sunrise to make breakfast and worked long days gutting houses, hauling trash, hammering sheet rock, painting walls and more. Happily exhausted, they crawled early into sleeping bags on bunks to rest up for the next day’s labor.

These performers can afford any spa or white sand beach in the world. I helped host them at one of their stops in New Orleans. The young, wide-eyed, soap opera starlet standing next to me for a group photo said, “I had no idea how things still are down here. This has been the best week of my life.”

New Orleans will recover. A dominant reason why it will is the work of the tens of thousands of such volunteers. They came and continue to come to save this city and its people. Without them, we would have drowned; with them, we will survive and thrive.

Many of these Good Samaritans belong to a phenomenon being dubbed “voluntourism”—folks of all sorts using their vacations and breaks to help those in need. Just as corporations have discovered they can do well by doing good, people are discovering the excitement and satisfaction of using time off to serve others.

You too can share this wealth! Be a New Orleans voluntourist!

Volunteering here on vacation has multiple benefits. It contributes immeasurable good to New Orleans. Though the hurricanes and flood were a year-and-a-half ago, the city needs help as much as ever. Perhaps the biggest need is repairing and rebuilding properties; tens of thousands of people still require assistance bringing theirs back.

Voluntourism also blesses the ones who give. Those pitching in treasure the value of helping people restore their devastated lives. Voluntourists also get the special satisfaction of teaming up with and learning from the other, diverse volunteers. Lasting friendships spring up. No doubt a romance or three have as well. Finally, voluntourists have a blast. Doing good not only is good, it makes for a good time. Now that’s the perfect New Orleans gumbo!

Families reap special benefits from volunteering while vacationing. Children learn valuable lessons. The family bonds in unique and powerful ways. Though it will bring plenty of them, helping New Orleans will make for more than the usual family vacation’s pleasant impressions and memories. It will make family history. After all, volunteers here are making American history.

Consider the Musicians’ Village, which Habitat for Humanity is building in the Upper Ninth Ward. New Orleans’ culture depends on native and local musicians; music is the city’s blood. But many players cannot afford to return. Hence the Musicians’ Village—a planned 70 affordable homes (for both musicians and non-musicians) on adjacent blocks meant to support the city’s culture. And speaking of meeting people one would not otherwise: President Bush has dropped by to lend a hand and enjoy some red beans and rice with Freddy Omar (the city’s best Latin singer) and others.

Numerous agencies, institutions and charities need a steady stream of muscle, skills and good hearts to help bring back this great American city. The list below will get people started on the best fit for them. The work varies, but most volunteers will be preserving and restoring homes and businesses.

Voluntourists may come for as long or as little as they wish. They also should be clear about living conditions and the safety of where they will be working and living. The invaluable contributions of groups like ACORN and Common Ground Relief have been especially fueled by college students, who swarm to the city during breaks and vacations. But folks of all ages find voluntourism the perfect vacation.

 
New Orleans Voluntourism Organizations
APEX Community Advancement, Inc.
4360 Washington Ave., New Orleans, LA 70125 [Map It]
(504) 358-2739

Neighborhood: Uptown/Garden District
Organization Type/s: Charities/Voluntourism Service
Beacon of Hope Resource Center
145 Robert E. Lee Blvd., Ste. 200, New Orleans, LA 70124 [Map It]
(504) 309-5120
www.beaconofhopenola.org

Neighborhood: Lakefront/Lakeview
Organization Type/s: Charities/Voluntourism Service

Description: Beacon of Hope Resource Center revitalizes New Orleans neighborhoods by using volunteers to help residents rebuild their homes and communities. With the help of over 30,000 volunteers we have completed 1700 homeowner projects, replanted 25 miles of green space, and renovated 10 parks and playgrounds in the Lakeview, Gentilly and Lower 9th Ward neighborhoods.
Camp Restore
9301 Chef Menteur Hwy, New Orleans, LA 70127 [Map It]
(504) 242-2636
www.camprestore.org

Neighborhood: Gentilly/New Orleans East/Chalmette
Organization Type/s: Charities/Voluntourism Service

Description: Restore and be restored! Join us and our nonprofit partners throughout Greater New Orleans as we work together to restore, faith, home and community. Volunteer housing, meals and project coordination for groups of all sizes.
Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans
1000 Howard Ave., New Orleans, LA 70113 [Map It]
(504) 523-3755
www.ccano.org

Neighborhood: Central Business District/Downtown
Organization Type/s: Charities/Voluntourism Service

Description: The Catholic Charities focus in New Orleans has been on saving and restoring properties and meeting the basic needs of the poor.
Common Ground Relief
1800 Deslonde St., New Orleans, LA 70117 [Map It]
(504) 312-1729
www.commongroundrelief.org

Neighborhood: Gentilly/New Orleans East/Chalmette
Organization Type/s: Charities/Voluntourism Service

Description: This grassroots organization’s motto is “Solidarity Not Charity” and focuses its efforts on the Lower Ninth Ward and in Algiers. It runs a health clinic, offers legal services, works on bio-remediation and guts homes.
Habitat for Humanity
7100 St. Charles Ave., New Orleans, LA 70118 [Map It]
(504) 861-2077
www.habitat-nola.org

Neighborhood: Uptown/Garden District
Organization Type/s: Charities/Voluntourism Service

Description: Building affordable housing is this well-known organization’s purpose.
HandsOn New Orleans
1050 S. Jefferson Davis Pkwy., New Orleans, LA 70125 [Map It]
(504) 609-2525
www.handsonneworleans.org

Neighborhood: Mid-City
Organization Type/s: Charities/Voluntourism Service

Description: This volunteer center connects volunteers of all ages to city-wide service projects in areas ranging across the board. Visit HandsOn New Orleans' project calendar to find an opportunity that meets your interests.
Hike for KaTREEna
1509 Filmore Ave., New Orleans, LA 70122 [Map It]
(504) 644-4125
www.hikeforkatreena.org

Neighborhood: Gentilly/New Orleans East/Chalmette
Organization Type/s: Charities/Voluntourism Service
Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans Inc.
5100 Orleans Ave., New Orleans, LA 70124 [Map It]
(504) 569-8650
www.jagno.org

Neighborhood: Lakefront/Lakeview
Organization Type/s: Charities/Voluntourism Service

Description: Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans is a local office of Junior Achievement USA (JA), the world’s largest organization dedicated to giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success, plan for their future, and make smart academic and economic choices. JA’s relevant and hands-on programs are delivered by corporate, community, and parental volunteers. If you or your group would like volunteer for our in-class programs, our pint-sized “kid city” JA BizTown, or our dynamic Capital One/JA Finance Park simulation, please contact Keith Barney at barney@jagno.org.
KidSMART
1920 Clio St., New Orleans, LA 70113 [Map It]
(504) 410-1990
www.kidsmart.org

Neighborhood: Mid-City
Organization Type/s: Charities/Voluntourism Service

Description: This local non-profit teaches children positive life skills through the visual and performing arts.
Parkway Partners
1137 Baronne St., New Orleans, LA 70113 [Map It]
(504) 620-2224
www.parkwaypartnersnola.org

Neighborhood: Uptown/Garden District
Organization Type/s: Charities/Voluntourism Service

Description: The storms and flood destroyed more than 50,000 trees in Orleans Parish. Parkway Partners works to restore the urban forest to public spaces.
Projects with Purpose
600 Decatur St., Suite 500A, New Orleans, LA 70130 [Map It]
(504) 934-1000
www.projectswithpurpose.org

Neighborhood: French Quarter
Organization Type/s: Charities/Voluntourism Service

Description: Experience Voluntourism and make a difference! PWP designs all facets of custom Volunteer Events tailored to any group's interests! Spend a day having fun and giving back, while PWP takes care of all the details!
Raintree Children & Family Services
1233 Eighth St., New Orleans, LA 70115 [Map It]
(504) 899-9045
www.raintreeservices.org

Neighborhood: Uptown/Garden District
Organization Type/s: Charities/Voluntourism Service
Rebuilding Together New Orleans
923 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans, LA 70130 [Map It]
(504) 581-7032
www.rtno.org

Neighborhood: Arts District/Convention Center
Organization Type/s: Charities/Voluntourism Service

Description: Rebuilding Together has a mission is to preserve and revitalize houses and communities, assuring that low-income homeowners, particularly those who are elderly and disabled, can live in warmth, safety, and independence. Volunteers of all skill levels make a worthwhile contribution towards rebuilding someone’s home. They may be performing tasks such as painting, scraping, landscaping, drywalling, taping, cleaning, installing appliances, and tiling.
RHINO (Rebuilding Hope in New Orleans)
1545 State St., New Orleans, LA 70118 [Map It]
(504) 897-0101
www.scapc.org

Neighborhood: Uptown/Garden District
Organization Type/s: Charities/Voluntourism Service

Description: Project –RHINO (Rebuilding Hope In New Orleans) offers hosts out of town volunteers and organizes them to do rebuild or new construction. Volunteers must be at least 16 years of age.
Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana
700 Edwards Ave., New Orleans, LA 70123 [Map It]
(504) 734-1322, (504) 733-8336
www.no-hunger.org

Neighborhood: Jefferson Parish
Organization Type/s: Charities/Voluntourism Service
St. Bernard Project
8324 Parc Pl., New Orleans, LA 70043 [Map It]
(504) 277-6831
www.stbernardproject.org

Neighborhood: Gentilly/New Orleans East/Chalmette
Organization Type/s: Charities/Voluntourism Service
Youth Rebuilding New Orleans
(504) 264-3344
yrno.com

Neighborhood: Mid-City
Organization Type/s: Charities/Voluntourism Service

Description: If you’re looking to volunteer, New Orleans needs you! Youth Rebuilding New Orleans accepts groups and individuals looking to make a difference in the community. Join us in the recovery and rebirth of the New Orleans area by rebuilding blighted, distressed, foreclosed, and flood damaged homes.
 
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