Reflections from the USSB Youth Service Trip to NOLA
5 Stories from the Youth of Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara
During June 2016 members of the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara YRUU group made to New Orleans, LA. The group spent three days in New Orleans and six on the north shore of Lake Ponchartrain, working with local organizations through the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal. The youth group’s work focused on the issues of racism and privilege with an eye toward taking what they learned to foment positive change in their home community.
This trip was made possible by the industrious fundraising of the youth group (who we are told sold lots and lots of quiche), YRUU families, and the Unitarian Universalist Association Katie Tyson Fund for Youth and Young Adult Ministries.
Five of the participants wrote about the experience. These are their stories…
It was incredibly hot on the day we visited the Whitney Plantation. We walked around the grounds with sun umbrellas, drinking from bottles of Gatorade. I was wiping sweat off my face with a handkerchief every few minutes. As our tour guide explained the harsh working conditions the enslaved people worked under, I could really understand how so many of them died from overwork.
This trip has been an interesting one, filled with ethical turmoil and logical discussion to ease such turmoil. I’ve learned a lot about a lot I would never think of learning about. Mind clouded by anger and woe, it was hard to wrap my head around the topics at hand – but once my emotions mellowed I saw this trip as an amazing opportunity to widen my understanding of ethnic and racial issues, as well as broaden my own morality.
I come away from the NOLA trip with an idea that has been repeated a lot around me lately (coincidentally also the topic of this last week’s service): this idea that we all have a right to joy. That phrasing may seem a little off, as saying we have a “right” to joy puts joy up there with noble ideals such as freedom and equality. It feels strange and almost disrespectful to give it such weight.
This past June, I went on a service trip to New Orleans with the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara. Our trip was different from many service trips, because not only did we focus on volunteering while we were there, but we also spent a lot of our time learning. Specifically, we were learning about how to start doing anti-racism work in our hometown.
Coming from a place of privilege (white, middle-class), helping other people is mostly possible for me. I’m able to volunteer, to campaign across the country, and personally assist those whose circumstances are less fortunate than mine. I’m able to introduce myself briefly into communities, work to alleviate their need, and then return home satisfied. Satisfied because helping feels good. Because there’s a personal pleasure in helping, a tangible reward for the helper.