October 29, 2010 at 3:40 pm , by Julie Bain
In August I met a special young lady named Nora. I was in New Orleans to volunteer for a Rebuilding Together project to reconstruct homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina five years earlier. I hit it off with Nora and her mom while we were sweating and sanding together in the sultry New Orleans heat. Nora learned a thing or two about the power of community service, so I invited her to visit our offices at LHJ and write a guest blog about it. Here are her thoughts.
It all started when my Argentine grandmother, Lita, taught me to knit when I was 6. I put my hands on the knitting needles, and she put her hands over mine and guided the movements of my hands and the yarn. Once I knew the motions, I could do it myself at home. At first my knitted squares were loose and full of holes and dropped stitches, but I kept practicing and got better. Now my full ability is to knit scarves and hats. Sweaters and gloves are beyond my skills, although my grandma made beautiful ones.
When I was 11 or 12, I had a group of friends who all had learned to knit. In our religion class, the teacher suggested that we do some good with our knitting skills. She suggested we make a baby blanket and donate it to a hospital. So we each knitted several squares and then sewed them all together. It was in lots of pastel colors and was really cute! We thought it was amazing that we made it—it looked professional! And we were really proud to give it to someone in need.
It made me want to do more community service. So this past summer, my mom asked if I wanted to go to New Orleans with her for the 5th anniversary of hurricane Katrina and help rebuild some houses (below, that’s me with Julie Bain and my friend Julia Collins). I wasn’t sure what I’d have to do and was a little bit nervous, but I was into it.
I had painted sets for my school musical, but that did not prepare me for being on a ladder in 100-degree heat to prime and paint a two-story home. It was tough work. But what was so cool was that I could do it, and I painted a lot of that house. I also sanded almost the whole rebuilt front porch. We also met the owners and saw how grateful they were. They had lived there for decades before Katrina, and I thought it was so valuable to rebuild their home rather than tear it down and build a new one. I mean, they want to live in their own home!
Both of these projects made me want to do more. It’s very rewarding, and I plan to go again next summer. Doing good really does feel good!
Nora Gonzalez, 13, New York City