On April 23 I wrapped up my fifth service trip to New Orleans, Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina happened nearly 12 years ago and Follen has been sending groups down there for every one of those years. It’s part of what makes me so proud to be a part of this community – our commitment to social action and justice.
One significant difference between this year’s trip and those in the past was the focus on youth education. Much of my pride in Follen comes from the amazing youth and advisors shaping our youth programs like Follen Unitarian Universalist Youth (FUUY). On our first morning in NOLA we participated in a Race dialogue with members of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans’ (FUUNO) Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal, and I was impressed by the thoughts and feelings expressed by FUUY youth. After a full week of work, we were able to bring many pieces of that discussion to our experience at the Whitney Plantation, and I watched as the youth grappled with the tremendous human injustice of slavery.
One of the biggest benefits of traveling to NOLA for service work every April school vacation week is the exposure to people, places, and things outside our comfort zone. I know that everyone who has participated in these service trips has brought home new perspectives on our society, however, with the core of this most recent trip centered on race and social justice education, I’m optimistic that lessons learned in NOLA will be applied with renewed vigor here at home. We can’t forget that racial/social injustice exists everywhere, and that true progress is achieved when we renew our activist spirit every day.
I’m honored by the opportunity to continue the work with you all!