Volunteer Expeditions strives to gain an understanding about the rights and needs of those in poverty, the dignity of life and the necessity to reach beyond ourselves in giving.
Welcome back to our new interview series, The Ripple Effect. The Ripple Effect explores the emotional impact of volunteer travel and its lasting effect on people’s lives. Today we’re speaking with Ken Budd, a prolific volunteer traveler and writer committed to changing lives. His memoir, The Voluntourist, is “part love story, part travel tale; a book about losing your father and finding your destiny.” After his first volunteering trip to New Orleans, Ken volunteered in four countries in nine months for his memoir. Ken has written for The Washington Post, Smithsonian, Stuff, McSweeney’s, Might, Worldview, and many more publications. Here is part one of our interview. (Please visit us tomorrow for part two.)
I write a lot about New Orleans. I’ve only ever read about it or seen movies about it. The show Treme is one of my favorite programs on television. It’s a little strange to have such a deep love and respect for a place you’ve never been. New Orleans looms large in my imagination—the music, the culture, Mardi Gras, the French Quarter—all conspire to create this legendary, mystical realm in my mind.
New Orleans has been through a lot. Katrina famously demolished whole neighborhoods while residents, many of them poor, suffered. Some of the storm’s effects were immediate—massive flooding, cut-off emergency services, a lack of clean water or food—and others were longer-lasting—water-borne illness, violence born of desperation, lost insurance coverage, and unemployment (to name a few). Today parts of the city are still underwater, if metaphorically. The Lower Ninth Ward, one of the hardest hit neighborhoods because of the failed levees, has become a jungle… literally. As residents fled, streets were left without tending, and, in time, nature has taken over.
In my last post I wrote about a voluntour organization that remembers—they are committed to continuing rebuilding efforts in Haiti while many other organizations have moved on. Today I’d like to focus on another sustained effort I read about in AFAR, this time on domestic soil. The St. Bernard Project works with volunteers in Louisiana, continuing the vast rebuilding effort in the extended wake of Hurricane Katrina.