Nobles Parents' E-Newsletter

October 2011

Nobles Parents' E-Newsletter October 2011

From Community Service: Surprise!! A New Orleans Friendship Renewed in Long Assembly

Friends visit each other. They share stories, eat together, help each other, experience the world as part of each other’s circle. They give each other the sincere gift of time, the only gift that never wears out and never grows old. Nobles has a friend in the city of New Orleans, specifically the battered parish of St. Bernard. In the years since the deluge, concerned faculty and students have traveled there to build, clean, paint, work and, perhaps most importantly, to befriend the people we met there. As with most genuine friendships, both parties believe they receive more than they give.

Linda Hurley returns from her many trips to NOLA with a bag stuffed with business cards, scraps of paper scribbled with many types of handwriting and a cell phone full of new contacts. They are people like Allen, who lost his job when a business failed, lost his security when his family broke up in the vicissitudes of instant homelessness and poverty, and lost his house to irreparable damage. He and his dog, Vinnie the Pug, maintain a constant presence at the Community Center; upbeat and warm, he is one of the best listeners we know. Debbie “mans” the triage table at the food pantry, making sure everyone is treated fairly. She should know why that is so important to the dignity of folks who have to come every week for food. She raised three children during and after the flood; for six months they lived in her orange Chevy sedan. Year after year, Nobles finds its way down to “da Parish” and friendships flourish in large, loosely organized groupings. Retired faculty member Kate Coon’s Children’s Literature class gathered books for a charter school, Sandi MacQuinn’s family spent two months of her sabbatical living and working in food and clothing distribution and refurbishment of the Community Center. Graduate Abby Snyder '07 is Teaching for America in a middle school in St. Bernard. (See timeline below for detailed look at our continued commitment in New Orleans.)

This past summer, Nobles chose Zeitoun as our community read, hoping to educate ourselves further about the advance of that wall of water, and to understand some of the political and cultural disarray that caused even more suffering than the natural disaster might have. Dave Egger's book became the launching pad for many English class discussions and writing assignments. The struggle of one family, the Zeitouns, who happen to be an Muslim family, seemed so emblematic of government disorganization in that city and America’s seemingly unreasonable fear of average Muslim citizens during times of great stress after 9/11.

On September 28, our first Long Assembly of the year proved to be one more way to celebrate the longstanding friendship we have created with New Orleans, as we revisited our reading of Zeitoun. To quote Bill Bussey “This book that we connect to on so many levels reflects the passion and heartache that we feel for this city and its people.” The Nobles audience came to hear reporter and editor Dante Ramos, who witnessed and wrote about all this. Ramos is a Harvard graduate and currently deputy editorial page editor for the Boston Globe. Before coming to the editorial board in 2006, he worked for The Times-Picayune in New Orleans as deputy editorial page editor, as an editorial writer and as a beat reporter covering education and local government. He has also written for The Economist, The New Republic, The New York Times Book Review, and other publications.

Ramos was there during the deluge—trying to get the truth, to write about what was happening and to contact agencies and average people dealing with a torrent of water. He had been reporting in New Orleans before the disaster and, with phones not working, everyone in flight and disorder and disarray on every side, he was one of those who called for a clear look at what was happening, and why.

Unbeknownst to most of the audience, however, was the surprise visit unveiled during Assembly of Abdulrahman and Kathy Zeitoun! Dante Ramos called them to the stage and, in an intimate interview, helped our community to continue to do what real friends manage—to know someone more deeply. It’s always better when you can ask questions and get a gut feeling about real issues and real people. It was with gratitude that we “sat down with our friends” from New Orleans that day, and had a long, satisfying conversation.

Nobles New Orleans Trips: Facts and Figures

  • August 29, 2005—Hurricane Katrina hits the Gulf
  • Fall 2005—Justin Reich (former Nobles Faculty member) travels to New Orleans
  • Spring 2006—DJ Hatch '07 and Dennis Hatch (parent) volunteer in New Orleans
  • Summer 2006—Ben and David Snyder '08 volunteer at Camp Hope; Steph Chaston '07 works in NOLA with her Needham Church
  • March 2007—10 adults/31 students travel to NOLA during Spring Break (visit from Fleur-de-Lis Ambassadors to Nobles)
  • Summer 2007—Brother-2-Brother Trip: 6 adults/7 students
  • March 2008—10 adults/40 students travel to NOLA during Spring Break
  • December 2008—Faculty attending the POCC conference work at St. Bernard Project
  • March 2009—10 adults/42 students travel to NOLA during Spring Break
  • March 2010—10 adults/50 students travel to NOLA during Spring Break
  • March 2011—12 adults/51 students travel to NOLA during Spring Break
  • Summer 2011—Nobles community chooses Zeitoun as its all-school read
  • March 2012—a group of 65 is scheduled to return to NOLA

Additional Nobles/NOLA connections

  • Graduate Stephanie Grace '83 continues to write a political column for The Times-Picayune newspaper. Stephanie joined the paper as a reporter in 1994 and has hosted many Nobles/Nola spring break groups
  • Sabbatical faculty member Sandi MacQuinn and family lived in the Parish and worked at the Community Center of St. Bernard for two months.
  • Graduate Abby Snyder '07 now teaches in St. Bernard Parish as a Teach for America fellow.
  • In five years, more than 175 individual students and 55 adults (faculty, staff and parents) have been involved in an ongoing effort to continue to be a force and a presence in the post-Katrina recovery efforts happening in New Orleans.

We have worked with many organizations and individual residents:

  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Community Center of St. Bernard
  • The St. Bernard Project
  • Beacon of Hope
  • Relief Spark
  • Carpenter's 2 House
  • Covenant United Methodist Church
  • 2nd Harvest Food bank
  • New Orleans Park and Rec. Dept
  • Sophie B. Wright Charter School
  • McDonough 42 School
  • Bayou Rebirth
  • Common Ground Relief
  • AP Tureaud School
  • The Gathering

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