There is much to be grateful for, no matter where you are! On Thursday I volunteered at the Convention Center for Sheriff Marlin Gusman's 33rd Annual Thanksgiving Day Feast. I served, stocked, cleaned and visited with those who came for meals and also those who volunteered. It was quite a scene, and at times it seemed that there were more volunteers than folks who had come for meals. The convention center is enormous and there was probably more than a thousand people there with some very talented musicians playing their hearts out up on an elevated stage. Problem was that the music was so loud it was an acoustic assault on the senses. All the volunteers were given aprons that had the Sheriff's name and those who came for the meal got a canvas bag that also had the sheriffs name on it with socks, beanie, ramen and other items. The political leaders got up and congratulated each other and then gave $20 to the oldest meal attendee present, a 96 year old local woman. It was great to see so many volunteers coming out to help those less fortunate, but it was sad to see so much money wasted.
One of the volunteers I met is Robert Lee Grant who is making a documentary film for PBS on an Alice Water's inspired Edible Schoolyard Project at Samuel J Green Charter school in New Orleans. I hope to visit this site later in the week.
I met a father and daughter who had fled on Saturday before Katrina hit on Saunday. They lived in the Lakeview neighborhood on Lake Pontchartrain that was flooded by 8 feet of water. They lived outside of New Orleans for one month in a single house with 6 other famlies. The father told me that there were 17 kids and at that moment his 12 year old daughter produced her iPhone and brought up a picture of her and 16 other children on the screen. She gave me the phone and I enlarged the picture with a quick finger movement and asked her to point herself out. Nice to see that technology has matured to the point that the touch screen graphical interface with intutive finger movements actually works as promised.
New Orleans is betting heavily on Charter schools to help bring up those children who have NOT had great schools to attend. It's the age old question of the rich and poor. The KIPP model seems to hold great promise for academic success amongst those of lesser means. All those on the front lines working to help children everywhere deserve and need more support.
I will be here another week maximum before heading off to Florida. South America is calling.