The New Orleans Community Post Hurricane Katrina – Sisters of Charity

The New Orleans Service and Justice Trip brought me more gifts than I ever expected, and I would not trade the experience for anything. When we arrived in New Orleans, we met with the Sisters of Charity, our hosts for the week. Sister Vickie, Sister Claire, Sister Peg, and Sister Monica took such good care of us and cooked more food than we could eat.

Our first day, we were able to learn about the culture of New Orleans and the history of Hurricane Katrina. I knew about the storm, but I was surprised to learn that the damage caused by Katrina was largely due to broken levees built to protect against the overflow of water. We concluded that the storm’s destruction was a result of both Mother Nature and mankind. It was explained to us that the government did not react to the disaster soon enough, which caused the deaths of so many people who were stuck on the roofs of their homes without aid.

Our group visited the Lower 9th, a district trying to rebuild from Katrina to this day. We met a man named Burnell Colton who established the first grocery store in the Lower 9th since Katrina. Burnell returned to the Lower 9th after Katrina and saw that people had to take three buses in order to get to the nearest food market. Seeing that as unacceptable, he became a force of change by opening a grocery store. Shortly after, he also started the first laundromat in the Lower 9th with the help of his friend Ellen DeGeneres. It was a pleasure getting to know someone who did not want to wait for a change, so he became the change himself. He told us to always do our best because you never know who is watching.


The week ahead was a challenging one but very rewarding. We worked with a non-profit organization called SBP which was created by two people who wanted to help those impacted by Katrina. Throughout the week, our group had the opportunity to work on a home that was once lost by Katrina. The family rebuilt it entirely on their own. The 84 year old man and his wife lived in the home until they were struck with another devastation in February of 2017 when tornadoes came. Their roof was completely torn off, and water poured in for months, completely ruining the home with mold. We worked on rebuilding their home over the week.

The first day, we worked on demolition. Some of us took out dry wall while others of us took out nails, screws, and electric cables in the house. The following days of the week consisted of demolition and mold remediation. Mold remediation, I will say, is not an easy job. We had to scrub every part of the house with a thick toothed metal brush and spray and wipe down every surface with a chemical that prevents mold from growing again. After that, we painted the entire house working alongside two members of Americorps, Andrew and Stella. SBP did a wonderful job supplying great leaders at the work sites. We loved the entertaining ice breakers that were held at the beginning of the day and the great talks we had with Andrew and Stella.

On Monday, we were able to watch a documentary about how the religious sisters of New Orleans helped rebuild the city after Katrina. In this documentary, they highlight the Ursuline Sisters. I attended an Ursuline school in Dallas, Texas and the president of the school in the documentary is now the president at my school. The documentary really resonated with me for this reason. It was great to see her hard work in New Orleans, and then think about her impact at my alma mater today. Later during the week, I was even able to go visit the Ursuline school, and I took many pictures to show my family and friends.

On Tuesday, some people from our group went to another part of New Orleans to help support A Night against Crime. This was a night dedicated to raising awareness about crime in New Orleans. However, the event was also intended to bring joy to the community. It was a great experience getting to play volleyball with many of the kids in the neighborhood and eat a meal with the community.

On Thursday, the sisters took the group to a Jazz Fest because it was our last night in New Orleans. We were looking forward to experiencing some powerful jazz in a city flooded with music. All of us had so much fun dancing, and it was a bittersweet end to an amazing trip.

Besides all the service and fun excursions on this trip, I took away the importance of making sure to listen and to love others. For many people in the United States, Katrina is a disaster of the past, but it still resonates deeply with the people who live in New Orleans today. I took away friendships and great memories with the eleven other people who came on the trip with me. Without all of them, the trip would not have been the same, and I am so thankful to call them friends today. Service and Justice Trips at Creighton are more than just service. Coming back from the trip, I feel full of life, passionate about serving communities, and inspired to be an advocate for justice.

Eva-Maria Harwerth
Class of 2021

The SCSJ blogs are meant to be a place for Creighton students, faculty, staff, alumni/ae, and friends to reflect on their experiences with programs sponsored by the office or related to its mission. The views expressed in these reflections, and all other blogs found on or linked to from this website, are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of Creighton University, the Schlegel Center for Service and Justice (SCSJ), or any of the University’s affiliates. The University and the SCSJ are not responsible for the actions, content, accuracy, or opinions expressed in these blogs.