For the Good of the Gulf: UNC Law Winter/Spring Break Pro Bono Project

Saturday, December 24, 2005

We're Back

I'm a little embarrassed by the amount of media attention we got while we were in New Orleans. That's especially true after Rachel talked about a mutual friend who literally moved to the city after the disaster to work to rebuild it. And you think of the thousands of National Guard and other military and the hundreds of Red Cross Volunteers who stay for months at a time and regular residents of the city who are all chipping in. They're the ones who deserve any attention.

There was some sentiment in the group that when we come back we should come and build a house or something rather than do pro bono work per se. Its certainly something I've thought about as well. But through the work we did do, we were able to touch a lot of people. Not every client's problem was solved, but at the very least we let them know there was still an infrastructure in place that cared about them. And the same was true of the attorneys. Hopefully we reminded a few of them of their indigent clients, as well.

The amount of work that still needs to be done is massive. More tellingly, Katrina is the word of the day (well, everyday) in the city, from T-Shirts in the French Quarter to radio broadcasts to people having lunch to the newspaper (the Times-Picayune headline on Thursday was mind-blowing: "Katrina Weaker than Expected." Apparently windspeed at landfall has been shown to be slower than was originally thought).

New Orleans requires a massive influx of aid, both from the government and from charities. Staying with the Goodsons, I wasn't aware of the extent of the problem until we toured along the breach of the 17th Street Levy, but its bad, and its probably tempting to just give up. But New Orleans is a major American city full of American citizens, and it would be unconscionable for the rest of the country to not do everything in its power to help. This is why people form governments and societies in the first place- if we're not doing everything we can in a situation like this, what's the point of banding together at all? Might as well go live in the woods.

It was heartening yesterday to see Congressional approval for aid, even if one cynically wonders if it would have been as much if it wasn't tied into the bill to renew the PATRIOT Act. I'm obviously completely speculating, which is ok because this is a blog, and would love to hear if anyone had more information on the politics behind that.

To complete my personal part of this trip, we got back into Chapel Hill around 10:30 last night. Christy followed me to drop off the van. At Thrifty Rental Car the following exchange took place:

Thrifty Car Rental Check in Specialist: (Surveys trash and glasses and bottles, minor stains, and mileage meter. Sniffs and catches a scent. Looks at me shivering and wigged out) Where did you all drive this thing?
Me: New Orleans.
Thrifty Man: That explains it.

I think that's a pretty good sign for the Big Easy.


  • Thanks to all of you who came and gave of your time and heart during your Winter Break... While the work may not have been as legally stimulating as law students may have liked, it was all critically important to the stabilization and rebuilding of our organization. Every effort as previously expressed helps and we are very grateful. Best of luck to each as you and we look forward to staying connected and updating you on our progress. Happy Holidays and all the best in 2006.
    Rachel and the staff from The Pro Bono Project in New Orleans

    By Blogger Rachel, at 6:25 PM  

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