My guests today are four teen-agers who were in New Orleans as part of a UJA-NNJ [United Jewish Appeal Federation of Northern New Jersey] volunteer mission earlier this month. Welcome to OpEdNews, Danny, Josh, Juliana and Ben! What made you want to come on this trip? (I know it wasn't to play hooky, because schools in NJ weren't in session on Thursday or Friday.)
Juliana Kravitz, 12, Norwood, NJ: Well, I needed something to do for my mitzvah project [for her upcoming Bat Mitzvah] but I didn't know what! When my mom found this activity in the Jewish Standard, I knew it would be perfect. I really wanted to do something special and different than everyone else. Something that would really help people and show that I care. I had so much fun on this trip and I don't ever regret coming!
Ben Shaiman, 14, Wayne, NJ: My mom told me about this trip in September. I obviously knew about Katrina, but I never knew how bad the damage really was. I came to New Orleans to just help build some houses and get some community service time for school. I found out while I was there that I did much more. I gave people hope and a place to live. After realizing this, I felt like I really made a difference in someone's life and it really felt good.
Josh Freeman, 14, Wyckoff, NJ: Basically, my mom asked me if I was interested in going on the trip. I said, "Yeah, it sounds a bit interesting." And before I knew it, I was in New Orleans.
Danny Klyde, 14, Wyckoff, NJ: The reason that I wanted to go on this trip was simply because I knew that it was my duty as a US citizen to help out my fellow Americans. We are so quick to act and help other countries in need, but we are still trying to clean up from Katrina, some five or six years later.
Did the trip live up to your expectations?
Josh: The trip was amazing. It was so much better then what I expected. I really learned so much more then I expected to and even the work was fun. I never expected it to be such a learning experience and still have as much fun as I did.
What did you know about Katrina and New Orleans before coming down here?
Juliana: I didn't really know anything. All I knew was that a lot of nice people lived there and that there was a hurricane.
So, what have you learned after a few days of non-stop activity, helping and looking around?
Juliana: Well, I learned that the people here still need a lot of help from the storm.
You can say that again! What was your favorite part of the trip?
Ben: I really enjoyed working at Just the Right Attitude [food bank/soup kitchen in NOLA East]. It was very inspirational to hear the stories of all the people working there. It was also very fulfilling knowing I helped bring food to a family in dire need.
Delivering food through Just the Right Attitude mobile kitchen