By: Christie Dominique Alison Castillo, CAP J-1 Intern and 2017 Ambassador Scholar

Day by day, as I dwell in New Orleans, Louisiana, I noticed that I am gradually learning and living by their ways and means, I learned how to start my day with a smile, how to cope with time and reality, how to be tact about my attitude, enhance my skills, and, of course, relax and have fun. Moreover, my experience here has transformed my amateur skills to professional ones. New Orleans, as we all know, offers huge surprises if you would just dare to discover the beauty within.

Like any other countries nor state, New Orleans has suffered and experienced difficulties, grief, impediments, and trials due to hurricanes and other disasters that have destroyed vast lands, livelihoods, businesses, and definitely lives. The economy declined, trade turned frequent, optimism and the confidence of people has sunk. I may not have experienced it here but I saw and witnessed how people took action for everyone’s sake. I am still pleased that my host company where I was assigned took an initiative and I was part of their legacy in helping those who are in need during that time.

There are still more to fix in this state; because of poverty and rejections, our countrymen still suffer and they battle everyday with hunger. I was very concerned because I thought this only existed in my country, but reality says it’s inevitable regardless of country. This certain issue must become an eye-opener. Christmas or any other annual festivities can solve or ease hunger; they don’t only crave for food but also for attention. For me, this must be taken care of: give them food, share clothes, or if possible build them shelter. We cannot really go forward if there are ones who are left behind.

People are screaming for help because of hunger and indigence but we don’t hear the screech and howl of our Mother Nature which is our source of living. Mother Nature needs the utmost care, especially now that the majority of trees are already being cut down, huge forests are on fire, floods happen, and other calamities that reminds us that we have already abused it. New Orleans has beautiful sites and sceneries that were made naturally. Many lakes, gulfs, and bodies of water provide different benefits that we enjoy and experience but also because of human interventions that it has been destroyed and eradicated. We shall not wait until it’s over.

It’s not too late to heal and restore our mother. There is only one ingredient which is desire. A desire to start doing it and to finish what has been started. There are a lot of organizations and affiliations which are driven to rehabilitate, restore, regain, and sustain different bodies of water and areas of land. Few of them are part of the Greenheart Club volunteer opportunities here in Louisiana. For example, there is The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation which is dedicated to restoring and preserving water quality, coast, and habitat of the entire Pontchartrain Basin. The Gulf Restoration Network which aims to clean up and restore the gulf from the oil spill happened in 2010. The Bayou Rebirth maintains and propagates the nursery, removes invasive species, and restores salt marshes, swamps, and bottomland hardwood forests. There are a lot more, I was very happy to know that there is an opportunity for me to take a leap for Mother Nature, their advocacy inspires me to do more and start moving for the future of entire nation.

This act will not only satisfy the demand of gulf and other bodies of water here in NOLA but it will suffice the cravings of the whole world. We must gradually put success in our hands regarding this matter. Together we could eliminate the monster we once created.

Ready to find your home away from home? See how you can become a J-1 Intern or J-1 Trainee with Greenheart Exchange!