THE 2008 NEW ORLEANS RUGBY RECOVERY EFFORT

Submitted by Mary Holmes and Kathy Flores, Women’s National Team Head Coach

Photos courtesy of Dana Jackson, Lauren Pearlman, and Colleen Fahey

USWRF members work on Habitat for Humanity House

Our 2008 New Orleans Rugby Recovery Effort for the Habitat for Humanity volunteer project was a resounding success. Once again ruggers and supporters from around the country came to New Orleans to lend a helping hand with the ongoing rebuild effort.

Thursday

January 31, 2008

We arrived at the Habitat staging area eager to get started and were greeted warmly by the staff. Some of the staff remembered our work from last year and promised that they had plenty of work for us. Clearly we had made an impression. Before leaving for our jobsite we all took a moment to sign our names to the side of Habitat office trailer. One of our volunteers penned “fall down seven, get up eight,” which conveyed the spirit of New Orleans and our desire to help.

Then it was off to the jobsite where we met our team leaders, Scott and Danny, along with another group of volunteers from AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps). We quickly learned that AmeriCorps NCCC (www.americorps.org) enlists volunteers from 18 - 24 years of age for a ten month commitment to travel around and complete service projects. This group was working their last day in New Orleans before leaving for Miami, Florida for their next project.

After a brief safety lecture we grabbed hammers and nails and got to work. Our first task was to finish the blocking for the subflooring, followed by the installation of the subflooring. We were soon in a steady rhythm with some volunteers preparing the beams, some lining up the plywood, and the rest nailing the pieces securely in place. Each of the pieces required over 100 nails so there was nonstop hammering for the rest of the morning.

The volunteer crew installs subflooring

During our lunch break one of the Habitat lead organizers in New Orleans passed by and, noticing our bright yellow USWRF volunteer t-shirts, stopped to thank us personally for our efforts. We learned that, although a lot of progress had been made since last year, there is still much more that needs to be done. Before lunch was over we took time to walk or drive around the area. It was a sobering vision to see all the houses still in ruins but there was a silver lining. On each block we saw signs of recovery with houses being reclaimed, repaired, and reinhabited.

The remainder of the day was spent completing the sub flooring. We finished just in time to put away the tools and clean up before the rain came pouring down. We left for the day exhausted but exhilarated at what had been completed and at the thought of the next day’s work&em;putting up the walls!

Friday

February 1, 2008

The volunteers with Ray Magliozzi from 'Car Talk'

We arrived the next day to clear skies ready to get back to work. The AmeriCorps group had moved on but new volunteers had arrived. One of the new volunteers was Ray Magliozzi, one of the brothers that host the NPR Radio Show, “Car Talk.” We were soon hammering away, putting the walls together and completing the front stairs. As the morning wound down we had completed both side walls, along with the front wall, and it was time to break for lunch.

Lunch was provided by “Mobile Loaves and Fishes,” a nonprofit organization “providing food, clothing and dignity to our brothers and sisters in need.” As we walked up to the lunch area children volunteering for this group came running out and greeted us before taking our orders. It was very touching as they were so sweet and genuinely excited to help; it made us forget our aches and pains and truly enjoy the moment.

Raising the new walls

After lunch we returned to the jobsite and raised the two side walls along with the back wall. Our last task before cleaning up and leaving was laying the front wall in place for the ceremonial raising the next day. As we stood back to take in what we had completed Scott and Danny told us we had accomplished in two days what usually took at least four or five days to complete. We took some final pictures and said our goodbyes to all the volunteers and staff, promising to return again.

Saturday

February 2, 2008

The 'Throw Me Something Rugger' Tournament

We were off to the “Throw Me Something Rugger” Women’s Rugby Tournament. Some of our volunteers traded their work boots for cleats and joined in the fun, playing for Back in Black. Others refereed, manned tournament tables, or cheered on the teams. This year the tournament hosted four collegiate teams and four club teams. Back in Black defended their crown in the Club Division; and Texas A&M won the Collegiate Division. Tournament Chairperson Tania Hahn expressed hopes that in future years the tournament will rebound, like New Orleans, and grow to its pre-Katrina size of twenty teams. Check out the Halfmoon’s website for contact information for the 2009 Tournament at www.halfmoonsrugby.org.

Saturday evening we strolled down to view some of the Endymion Parade, with Kevin Costner as Grand Marshal, and catch some beads and trinkets. Then it was off to grab some New Orleans cuisine (and beverages) before retiring for the night.

Sunday

February 3, 2008

Habitat for Humanity volunteers

Sunday was a day for tearful goodbyes, with the promise of returning again next year to “rinse and repeat.”

Question - How much longer will the USWRF coordinate this volunteer effort?

Answer - As long as there is a need.

We hope you can join us next year! Please keep checking our website for details, or sign up for our quarterly e-letter for all the information.

You can see more photos from this weekend at Dana's gallery or Colleen & Lauren’s slideshow.