A new frontier' in New Orleans draws new residents
By Korina Lopez, USA TODAY
Despite all its problems, New Orleans is attracting new residents.
David Eisner, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, says a growing trend, dubbed "the brain-gain phenomenon," is getting traction in New Orleans. "Katrina offers a new frontier for people who care about social change," he says.
After two years of volunteering in AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps), Ashley Sloan, Greg Loushine and Jackie Smith decided to start their own non-profit group, Live St. Bernard.
"There were so many volunteers and not enough skilled workers," Sloan says. "So volunteers are often left standing around, waiting to be shown what to do. We wanted to start a program designed to attract and retain skilled laborers to the area."
Nathan Rothstein, executive director of NOLA YURP Initiative (New Orleans, La., Young Urban Rebuilding Professionals), moved to New Orleans after he spent his senior-year spring break volunteering in the area. Katrina "is our generation's civil rights movement," says Rothstein, 23. "People come from all over to make an impact, to have a part in history." He estimates 5,000 people have settled in the area.
And Richard Campanella, a geographer with Tulane University's Center for Bioenvironmental Research, estimates that 2,000 to 3,000 working professionals have moved in.
Zack Rosenburg, a Washington, D.C., criminal defense attorney, and his wife, Liz, who worked in the non-profit sector, were so deeply affected that they started the non-profit St. Bernard Project, which helps find money, supplies and labor to assist residents in moving back into their homes. With the help of volunteers, the St. Bernard Project has rebuilt 88 homes in the past 16 months.
"Many volunteers stay because they bond with and identify with residents," he says. "It's hard for the volunteers to leave and continue with their lives after bonding with the residents." The couple have decided to make New Orleans their permanent home.
"New Orleans represents the great optimism of America," Eisner says. "We've seen people turn their experience in long-term volunteering to inform their career paths. We've seen people move to change their lives of success to lives of significance."