Thursday, June 9, 2011

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler

A quick trip to the National Conference on Volunteerism and Service allowed me an opportunity to help rebuild and 'spruce up' Evans Park in the Uptown New Orleans.  Conference attendees spread out across New Orleans to work at four different playgrounds that had been devastated during Katrina.

Luminaries including R&B legend Percy Sledge, the Daily Show's British Correspondent John Oliver, and New Orleans chef John Besh participated and celebrated volunteers from across the country during the closing ceremony.

One of my favorite sessions was called Community Cinema and Service Learning Through Film:  A Village Called Versailles.  In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Vietnamese American residents in Versailles impressively rise to the challenges by returning and rebuilding before any other flooded neighborhood in New Orleans, only to have their homes threatened by a new government-imposed toxic landfill just two miles away.  The film recounts the empowering story of how this group of people turns a devastating disaster into a catalyst for change.  We were only given a small taste of the film by its director, S. Leo Chiang, but I intend to watch the rest and highly recommend it for use as a jumping off point on any service learning project involving the environment, youth engagement, cross-generation collaboration, or civic engagement.

As always, I returned with new ideas and inspiration.  And a few extra pounds.

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