Sunday, March 21, 2010

Dusty But Worth It

Business school is really about two things: networking and time management. Full schedules are an expect part of any MBA student's lifestyle. Today, we were put to the test.

The cold, windy New Orleans morning didn't deter the bleary-eyed teams from piling into their respective buses sometime around 7:30am. A handful of students appeared somewhat rough around the edges, bearing all the hallmarks of a night spent compromising sleep in favor of more active exploits. A cloud hung over whether or not everyone would actually make it downstairs in time to make our appointment with St. Bernard Project Build. Those doubts were unfounded.

I'm familiar with Katrina fatigue. I've felt it personally. Sometime around the second week after the hurricane hit I found myself tuning out any news about the event and the devastation that followed in its wake. Five years later my attitude hadn't changed. To my mind so far removed from New Orleans, five years seemed like enough time to do just about anything. Why would nearly every every trace of the disaster not now be eradicated from sight? Well, the reasons are manifold and today my personal Katrina fatigue was put to rest.

The UC Berkeley Haas team spent the better part of the morning lending a decent amount of elbow grease to the nascent home of Delia Doty. Like many residents of St. Bernard Parish, Delia's life was thrown into chaos in the wake of the hurricane. Five years later she and her daughter are on the bring of seeing some measure of normalcy return to their existence courtesy of a steady stream of volunteers who have worked on her house. The work is coming along nicely.

The Haas team got to work smoothing over the efforts of a prior set of UMass Amherst undergraduate students. I mean that literally; the Haas team spent the entirety of the morning sanding over Spackle—or mud as the locals call it—and dry wall. The dust that erupted from our labors was tremendous. It navigated its way into every open orifice: ear, nose and mouth. Plus the eyes. Mine still sting a little.

Were it not for those UMass students we'd not be doing any of this.

But we got the work done and it was rewarding. The owner, Delia, took the time to stop by and thank us for our efforts, thereby directly connecting our meager labor to its impact. There's no better reward.

Team leaders, Carmen & Mike, after partying with Scarface himself, Tony Montana

With the morning's work complete we were ready to dash back to the hotel for a quick shower to remove the thick layer of white grime from our bodies. "No," we were informed, "there's no time." So resigned to our filthy fate, and looking like we'd spent a night partying with Tony Montana, we carried on through the rest of our day's schedule. It didn't let up almost without a break until 10pm. But with the thought of the impact we'd had on Delia's life, who cares about how much we stink?

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