It’s Alyssa writing this blog post! Today we started off our rainy, chilly morning with breakfast at 7am. After some bagels and cereal, the director of United Saints, Daryl, talked about the options for volunteering we had for the day.
Our group had the opportunity to work with ARNO, Animal Rescue of New Orleans. ARNO was an organization founded after Hurricane Katrina around October of 2005 and they were first responders to the animals impacted by the hurricane. Originally, people who came to help with Katrina relief who were from California ran the organization, but after a few months, local folks took over ARNO. We learned that ARNO helped over 10,000 animals return home or find new homes after Katrina. But unfortunately, 8 years later, Katrina continues to impact the silent community of our animal friends.
While at ARNO, our group did a variety of work. We were able to spend time with the animals, while walking them, cleaning their cages, washing their food dishes and organizing their clean beds and towels in storage. Most of the animals we worked with are relatives and descendants of animals who were put out on the street due to Katrina. Some of the animals we worked with were waiting to be adopted, and others were feral and were in rehabilitation to learn how to socialize with humans. Overall, it was really cool to get to work with the animals of New Orleans, because this furry community is one that is often left out of the conversation because the cannot speak up for themselves. It was a good reminder of how important it is to use our voices and energy to love them and advocate for them.
After volunteering, we returned to our apartment and relaxed before reflection. For tonight’s reflection, we broke off into four groups of 3 people, and we had about 15 minutes to come up with anything we wanted to incorporate our feelings. One group made their own New Orleans rendition of “My Girl,” by changing the lyrics to fit their experiences today. The other groups chose to do some poems. My group wrote a little haiku…
The silent victims
and still we are cleaning up
saving them with love.
Each line had a special meaning to each of us. I thought about how these animals have no one to speak up for them, so they are often left forgotten and quieted, and how non-kill animal shelters like this advocate for animal rights. Hannah contributed the second line the amount of work it takes each day to keep that shelter running. The women who we saw run ARNO had so much on their plate, and we were exhausted after one day, but these women, along with other long-term volunteers, do it daily. Nate thought of the closing line of the haiku, because he said really enjoyed being around the animals, and that’s one of the best ways to show them our love.
After reflection, we ate pizza for dinner with other groups who are volunteering with the United Saints. Then we got dressed for a night out in the French Quarter. We had beignets, went souvenir shopping and even saw some other Hamline students on the STLF trip. It’s currently almost 11pm, and I’ve had a long, but incredible full second day in the Big Easy. I’m looking forward to another day of service tomorrow.