Every Difference Makes a Difference
By Britain Dwyre Riley; Beta Eta, Florida State University
Traveling from all corners of America – Alpha Chi Omega alumnae and Alpha Chi headquarter professional staff converged at Camp Restore in New Orleans, Louisiana for the inaugural Alumnae Global Service Initiative Trip. For me, this trip was special. Not only would I be volunteering with my sisters, but I would also be volunteering in my hometown – a city close to my heart. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and one that I am humbled to be a part of.
After the regulatory “camp” tour and assignment of “camp chores,” the team took time to relax, unpack and settle in. For many of us, sleeping in bunk beds is a trip down memory lane to our collegiate days in residence halls and chapter facilities; this time, however, the conditions are different. Camp Restore opened in 2006 following Katrina. The camp was a place of hope, a place where those willing to volunteer congregated. Following Katrina, hundreds of volunteers occupied the camp, often sleeping in PODS and FEMA trailers. Nearly a decade after the camp opened its doors it still remains prevalent in the rebuilding of New Orleans. Volunteers continue to fill the gap left behind in the rebuilding of the city.
We were each drawn to apply for this trip for different reasons, but a common theme was a desire to give back surrounded by our sisters. We wanted to strike on the cords of love, unselfishness and sincerity. We wanted to make a difference, giving of ourselves as we are able.
Over introductions and subsequent dinner, we mingled with the leaders of the camp and gained a glimpse into their daily lives and the life of a New Orleanian, post Katrina. Following dinner participants gathered for reflection and were challenged to define our view of the culture of New Orleans. We all found the city to be one rich in heritage and culture. A city of passion and hope. A city rich in the spirit of family. After reflection we watched a documentary that illustrated the city’s trials and tribulations post Katrina and the obstacles that are presented to current residents and those wishing to return to the city. The documentary clearly, and undeniably, showcased the city’s rich and resilient heritage, and left us driven to make an impact in the coming days. As we ended the night we returned to our bunks, each reflecting on the impact that this trip, this city and our fellow Alpha Chi Omega sisters will leave on each other and on the great city of New Orleans.
I head to bed anxious to share this great city and this experience with my fellow sisters who are here and, thru this blog, with sisters across the nation. May each and every sister remember the importance of every service rendered and be inspired to volunteer. After all, every difference makes a difference.