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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day - Poverty

Today - 10/15/2008 - is Blog Action Day. Last year, it was about the Environment. This year, it's about Poverty. Bloggers, podcasters and videocasters around the world have decided to address today the same topic - Poverty - to raise awareness and trigger a discussion. Blog Action Day is a global phenomenon. By reading this post, you, too, take part.

You might even take additional action based on what you read in this blogpost, helping make this world that much more beautiful a place for all of us.

So far, 9,512 sites, with 10,647,218 readers, have registered, including The Carpetology Blog, and started posting. And, IBNMA - the International Blogging and New Media Association [of which I am a member] - is an actively participating sponsor.

I am particularly excited about this Blog Action Day 2008.

Thanks to my sister, Nathalie Bergin Sullivan, who is Director of Alumnae and Parent Relations for the high school she and I both attended, Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School in Washington, DC, I want you to 'meet' a truly wonderful alumna of the school who is making a world of difference to fight poverty and homelessness in a place called St. Bernard Parish in New Orleans, LA.

Her name is Liz McCartney; she graduated in 1990, and she has been named a CNN Hero for being an "everyday person changing the world." Just last week, she became one of the top 10 CNN Heroes for 2008. Her work embodies the values of the Sisters of the Visitation and has inspired many to take part in her mission. Will you help her become the winning 2008 CNN Hero?

Here's her amazing story. Needless to say, it has affected many students at Georgetown Visitation:

Imagine moving from a comfortable life in the Washington, DC area to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and dedicating yourself to helping Katrina survivors move back into their homes. That's what Liz did.

Kind of humbling to think about, isn't it?

She formed a nonprofit organization called the St. Bernard Project to rebuild their homes for free. She depends heavily on volunteers to get the work done with her.

My sister writes: "Over the past two years the St. Bernard Project has helped over 150 families rebuild homes that were devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. This vital rebuilding work was completed with help from over 7,000 volunteers from across the country and around the world. Visitation has sent several groups of student, staff and parent volunteers over the last 18 months. I would love to plan a trip down there with Alumnae volunteers and have discussed plans with our Alumnae Chapter in the New York City area (with over 300 Visitation Alums) to coordinate a service trip with them down to New Orleans next spring."

If you go to the St. Bernard Project website, you'll encounter a plea for help: "We need your help to move even more St. Bernard families’ home for the holidays! Our volunteer calendar has plenty of space starting the week of October 27 through December 19.

Please consider planning your trip to da Parish this fall as we try to complete as many rebuild projects as we can in time for these residents to celebrate in their own homes. Click here to schedule your volunteer group!"

My sister mentions how students, staff and parents from the Georgetown Visitation community have gotten involved. As an alumna, it's inspiring to witness how the younger generations have gotten involved in bypassing bureaucracy and inefficiency to lend hand and spirit to help those who need it most.

The photo here captures Liz [kneeling, 2nd from the right] this past July in New Orleans with the members of a Georgetown Visitation July summer service trip with Director of Christian Service Kathleen Looney and Athletic Trainers Amy DeVere and Eboné Gaskins with eleven soon-to-be seniors. They volunteered with Liz to rebuild homes. For six days, from early morning to late afternoon, they installed dry wall and insulation or painted.

Despite the work being hot, messy and exhausting, it was also per one of the Visitation volunteers “one of the most interesting and gratifying experiences” she had ever had. The students got to meet the men and women whose houses they rebuilt, people who were living in FEMA trailers since Hurricane Katrina flooded the city in August 2005.

In the Fall of 2007, Coach Karen Zarchin took her hockey team to New Orleans for a 3-day service trip. As much as she and the team prepared themselves for what to expect, she said that “the devastation over two years later was awful.” However, the experience shaped her team as individuals and as Visitation women living out the Little Virtues. "Like the Visitation Founders, this group of young women journeyed with open minds and hearts full of kindness; gentleness; and thoughtful concern for others, ready to help no matter what," described the Alumnae Notes.

They encountered families that reminded them of their own. Children with similar interests and goals for the future. Not too dissimilar from the Visitation students' own lives, except that theirs had been ripped apart by Katrina. They and their families needed help putting the pieces back together.

According to Liz McCartney, asking for help is often very difficult for the families of St. Bernard. “They never asked for handouts,” Zarchin says, but they knew that they could not pack up and leave, nor could they rebuild on their own.

In honor of Blog Action Day, I encourage you to make a difference right now by casting your vote for Liz McCartney and the St. Bernard Project so she can rebuild more houses in St. Bernard Parish, New Orleans. If you'd prefer to volunteer or donate to the St. Bernard Project, I'm sure she would welcome that, too!

BTW, the Sisters of Visitation include a blogger, Sister Anne Elizabeth, who is also participating in Blog Action Day via her blog Live + Jesus! Do read her post about Spiritual Poverty.

Thank you for reading and participating with me in Blog Action Day 2008: Poverty.


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