Students reflect on their trip to New Orleans
I am glad to be a part of the 'Cal Turner Immersion course' trip. Being an international student it was an outstanding opportunity for me to see first-hand, how community Development and Philanthropic organization work for poverty alleviation in United States and to be able to meet different social players working for social justices, specially working for re-development of 'Katrina' affected New Orleans. Above all, it was really enriching out of the reflections from peers coming from diverse background like Divinity, Law, Education, Economics etc. observing the same 'Race, Religion, and Poverty'.
Dilip K Rabha
The Cal Turner Program experience in New Orleans was an incredibly powerful trip. I learned a great deal about the complexities of poverty in New Orleans before and after Katrina. I was also challenged to examine how I and my own faith community have been showing love of our neighbors in New Orleans and in communities around us and throughout the world.
One evening we had the privilege of having dinner with a panel of faith leaders from the community. We asked the group how they each deal with the question of theodicy in their congregations in the face of such devastation. One pastor spoke up and said, "The question for my congregation is not whether or not God is a loving God. The real question is, why aren't those who claim to follow a loving God doing anything to help the people of New Orleans?" After his comment I could almost hear my pleas before God, "Lord when did I see you wet and forgotten and not offer my hand? When did I see your house overtaken by mold and not lend support?
When did I see you in a FEMA trailer and not invite you in? When did I forget your face just because it left the news? When did I assume that all was well with you when I really did not know? And God will answer, "Whatever you did not do to the least of your brothers and sisters in New Orleans, you did not do to me."
As a result of our trip I am reminded of the requirements of agape - that I stand in solidarity with my sisters and brothers throughout the country and world as they face the constant challenges of oppression and injustice. The suffering of those in New Orleans requires my attention and continued concern because the people of the Big Easy are my neighbors.
- Anna Lee
Lindsey Hammond, a third year Masters of Divinity student, has been actively involved with Project Pyramid, a collaborative graduate student movement to address poverty alleviation, since she began her studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School.
A native of Baton Rouge, she organized an experiential learning trip to New Orleans, Louisiana as part of her service project for the Cal Turner Fellowship Program and Project Pyramid. During March 1-7, 2009, seventeen students and two faculty members traveled to New Orleans to serve as well as study issues of race, poverty, and faith that have become magnified in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Lindsey worked on the logistics of the trip, planning the budget, travel, accommodations, meals, service work, and engagement with members in the community. During the week, the group stayed in the Desire Community in the Ninth Ward, met with local residents, faith leaders, and community leaders addressing a wide-range of advocacy issues from environmental concerns to adult literacy and city politics. Students from Economic Development, Divinity, Law, Peabody, and the Graduate School of Religion participated in the New Orleans Immersion Course.