Thursday, January 03, 2008

On a mission

I meant to catch up yesterday, but I didn’t, except in the comments over at MadPriest’s.

I met the people I’m going to be working with, yesterday. Courtney is Strategic Director of EDOLA’s Office of Disaster Response. She landed here because of her work in NYC after 9/11. She’s writing a book contrasting responses to 9/11 and Katrina; I’ll be interviewing survivors for her. Shakoor works part-time for EDOLA and part-time for, I think, another housing program. He came over from Common Ground, where the four of us worked last spring. One of the things he’s into is stopping the violence in the city, and bringing hope to the youth. I’m going to be helping him with this website.

Or so far as I understand it, anyway. They took me to a Lebanese restaurant a few blocks from where I’m staying, and filled up my brain. Courtney gave me a CD and a pile of reading to do, for background and to get me started thinking. I’m to immerse myself in this, start brainstorming interview questions, and call her Friday.

Then they took me downtown to meet diocesan staff. The bishop has been at the forefront of the struggle to keep affordable housing. He was so friendly—everyone was. ODR’s new director is a native New Orleanian; she was working with a Catholic agency in Nigeria when the storm hit. She asked herself what it meant to be from a place, and what sense it made to be working for peace and justice overseas when her home needed it so badly. So she’s been back here, for two years. She’s direct, focused, and on top of what she’s doing. The case management coordinator came over from the juvenile justice system. Everyone I met was so friendly, and so knowledgeable, and organized. I sat in on at least two conversations I didn’t understand a word of; I’m going to have to learn the local housing alphabet soup.

I’ll have sporadic access to a car; either Courtney’s, or a truck owned by the diocese. Probably not until early next week, though. I’m going to be mostly doing fieldwork, after this week. Today’s project: take the streetcar (the tracks run right in front of this house), look around, and do my reading. The house next door to EDOLA contains housing offices for several programs they’re connected with; there’s no extra office space, but I can set up at the dining room. I work much better with people around me, than I do completely alone.

I want to play tourist a little bit, too.


Brian R said...

May God bless you in your work. As a tourist from Australia I revisited New Orleans last April (previous visit in 1999). At first relieved to see little damage in tourist areas but then went for a swamp cruise and on the way back to the city, the driver took us through his home area and it was heart rending. I will keep you and your work in my prayers and look forward to reading about it here.

FranIAm said...

Hi Kirstin!

It sounds amazing. Please know you are held in prayer as you do this great work!

Happy 2008!