Back From Mississippi!
Although my trip to Mississippi was packed with rebuilding the devastation from Hurricane Katrina, I had an amazing time down there!
Iíve never been down south before this trip, but Iíve always heard that itís much hotter than New England. This could not be truer. During the day, the time that we worked, I donít think the temperature ever dropped below 95! I remember a couple weeks ago before my departure, I was very unhappy with the non-summer weather here in New England, but down in Mississippi, with the 100+ on average, I actually missed our weather. What made it even worse was the fact that we were required to wear long pants on the work sites due to the possibility of snakes, spiders, etc.
In total, there were about 100 others that traveled down to Mississippi, all being from different parishes in Massachusetts. They were all still in high school except for one girl who was actually going to be a junior at UMass Amherst. I didnít mind being one of the oldest ones there, but it definitely gave me a more mature and experienced feeling. Many asked me about different aspects of college life; how the dorms were, how hard were classes, if the rumors about not having to go to class were true, etc. Just to get that out of the way, not all classes are set up in lecture style, so yes, you do have to go to class!
The 100 was randomly broken up into teams of 4-8, with 2 adult leaders (I was not a leader) per team. Each group was assigned a random work site in Mississippi to work on from Monday-Friday, each site having its own tasks. Some people helped build the frames to houses, some did roofing, etc. My team worked to help restore a building for a group called The North Gulfport Community Land Trust (NGCLT). This group was run by two females who had lived in the community all their lives and were adamant about bringing their community together and fighting the injustices that the government put on their community. The neighborhood was considered a ghetto, which was inhabited by low income families. We had to do some gardening and painting for the work site, which the NGCLT hoped would eventually turn into a small education center, where the kids in the neighborhood could come to utilize the resources that werenít available in their own homes. There would also be tutoring, GED classes, language classes, and many other resources available.
The first couple of days, we worked in the garden; weeding, mowing the grass, and making sure the garden was in good condition. Eventually, the garden would turn into a community garden for everyone to plant their own vegetables and herbs. Gardening in the hot sun with no shade was the worst task for us, but we tried our best to suck it up and just finish the job.
The second task was to paint the whole building. It made no sense to us why they wanted to paint the brick building, since it already looked nice with the original brick red color. We were told that painting the building would show the government and whoever else providing the NGCLT with funds that progress and work was being done on the building. First we had to wash down the whole building, then prime it with a white base coat, and then paint it with the final color, Cosmetic Peach. The group consisted of no professional house painters, so the job was messy but we got it done!
Priming the building with a white base coat before the actual color!
Painting the building with the coat of Cosmetic Peach!
One corner finished! The whole group posing under the sign
It took us the entire week to complete the whole work site, but afterwards the NGCLT was extremely grateful with our work. It was a great experience for me; I had the opportunity to speak with many of the children in the neighborhood that walked by. Everyone I talked to actually liked the new peach color, and they all agreed that they would utilize the building once it was completed.
I enjoyed the whole trip, and talked with the director of the program about next yearís return. Iím planning on going back next year as a leader, and cannot wait until that day comes!
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