Posts Tagged ‘In Good Company’

The Great Bayou Debate

The latest blog entry from Brianne Wood during her weeklong community rebuilding experience in New Orleans:

Wednesday, November 5

Today we partnered with Bayou Rebirth to plant and restore natural grasses and marsh plants.  We sat through a great presentation from Fish and Wildlife to discuss the impact and erosion occurring in the Delta and waterways of New Orleans. There are many issues surrounding why New Orleans got hit as hard as it did by Hurricane Katrina, followed by Hurricane Gustav.

Without going into the entire presentation, the gist was that there are a multitude of problems and very few solutions.  We need to find a solution to help the Mississippi River divert its water flow and silt deposits.  This will restore natural “speed bumps” to slow down hurricanes off the coast, contribute to the health and well being of the bayou, and most importantly eliminate unnatural land mass build up in the canals, which makes it impossible for the oil and trade industries to import and export easily.  New Orleans constantly has to dredge the bottom of the canals in order to keep it deep enough for transport, creating a sunken basin effect and putting New Orleans further below sea level. 

The question was raised as to why the city doesn’t allow the Mississippi River to run as it intends and wants to, or create overflow pathways which would eliminate the over distribution of silt and materials.  The answer was “people are in way.”  The best solution for the environment causes the most challenging solution for the people in and around the city.

Hmmm … I sat feeling torn.  Which side is right, which side do I support?

On one hand I spent the past two days helping a family rebuild the house and home they lost.   I felt pride and honor in knowing the ripple we were creating for the neighborhood.

Then I learn that unless affirmative actions are taken to restore the coast and create a natural shelf off the coast of New Orleans, hurricanes will have nothing stopping or slowing their path; the levees will more than likely be broken again and these same people will once again be in need.

I got my answer when we revisited Miss Linda Ebarb.  When I told her I worked for Timberland she told me her husband always wanted a pair of our boots but they were expensive and they couldn’t justify spending the money.  I told her to give me their shoe sizes and I would see what I could do, but couldn’t make any promises.  She broke down into tears and hugged me.  She said we had already given her so much, she couldn’t ask for anything else.  I knew in my heart then that supporting the Ebarbs and people like them is really what needs to happen, at least for the short term.  We need to give people back not just their houses but their homes and maybe we make things a little bit better, a little bit greener and give people a little more hope for the future.

What needs to happen is for pressure to be put on oil companies and other shipping companies to be part of the solution and not just part of the problem. That could have the potential to be our happy medium.  It wouldn’t be best solution for either party, but it sure would be a good place to start.

The great bayou debate will continue but for today, I did my part … I planted much-needed marsh grasses, got stuck in the mud and had a lot of laughs in the process.  This is my new favorite team building exercise; there’s something to be said for helping to pull your coworkers (sporting waist-high waders) out of a pile of stinky sloppy mud!

You can read more about the experience and impact Brianne and her teammates are having this week on the In Good Company blog.

Footprints

An update from Brianne Wood, Timberland’s community engagement coordinator, during her week of community rebuilding in New Orleans:

Tuesday, November 4

One of the community service projects this week is working in partnership with Rebuilding Together.  As first responders back to New Orleans and residents of one of the areas hardest hit (Hollygrove) Loran and Linda Ebarb qualified for a new home rebuild.  They are such unique people and you can’t help but just love them instantly.  They are charismatic, kind and giving; the kind of people that have so little but would give it all away if they thought someone else needed it more.

I spent two days laying down bamboo flooring in their living room.  After our group had finished laying down tar paper in prep for the flooring, it was an employee from Eileen Fisher that turned around to me and said “Hey look Brianne, we literally and figuratively left our footprints here in the Ebarbs’ house.”

I love that he rippled the messaging I expressed in opening night introductions, of needing to leave a positive footprint wherever we go. Although the picture itself is not glamorous and would not mean much to a passer by, to me it holds many meanings.  We left our footprints in the Ebarbs’ house, the Ebarbs left a footprint in my heart that I hope I never forget.

I also note the date it was taken 11/4/08 – the same day we elected a new President of the United States.  This pictures is symbolic in the way that it proves we can be the change …”Yes, we can.”  I believe that, I live that and I will continue to fight for that.

You can read more about the experience and impact Brianne and her teammates are having this week on the In Good Company blog.

Notes from New Orleans

As promised, we’ll be providing updates throughout the week from Timberland’s own Brianne Wood as she builds relationships and revitalizes communities as part of In Good Company.  Here are Brianne’s initial thoughts on the experience:

Saturday, November 1

I sit in the airport with many thoughts and “what-ifs” of the week to come:
I wonder if my work will be beneficial to the communities I will be serving. 

I wonder how I will adjust to 24/7 of working, eating, sleeping, cooking, cleaning, and serving with 26 complete strangers.

I wonder if I will feel emerged and embraced in a community that has struggled with many heartaches.  Heartaches and challenges of which I have been sheltered from.

I wonder if I am the right candidate for this opportunity, or if others will find the experience life-altering and for me it will be only sub-par.

I wonder if I will be able find words appropriate to answer the haunting question of, “that’s nice … but so what?”

I wonder if the others will accept me, both personally and professionally.

Things I know:

I know in a short time, I will be in flight and there is no turning back.

I know that fearing the unknown, yet confronting it, will make me stronger, wiser and more confident. 

I guess that’s all I can go on for now.  The remaining answers will come with time.

With that, it’s time to board my flight.  Stay tuned for more.

 * * *

Monday, November 3

Yesterday I took part in touring the 9th Ward.

I have to say I was most intrigued and yet concerned about going to the 9th Ward.  You hear many stories and see photos of the devastation that occurred.  I just didn’t really know what to expect three years later.

What sticks most in my mind is seeing row after row of vacant spaces with nothing remaining but staircases leading to nowhere.  Stairs that once led to families, homes and memories.

The few that were able to rebuild are left with no neighbors or neighborhoods.  It was quiet in the Lower 9th.  An eerie sort of feeling

We met with a small handful of people and organizations from the area and it helped me feel there was a silver lining along this long black cloud.

We started today with our efforts and the organization Rebuilding Together.  One house, one neighborhood and one street block at a time.

I stood after a long today feeling humbled and thankful for all that has been afforded to me.  I am eager and excited for the remaining week ahead.

In Good Company

Over the next few days, nearly 30 employees from a handful of companies (including Timberland) will descend on New Orleans for a weeklong, hands-on community building experience.

In Good Company is a multi-company venture organized by Clif Bar & Company and an evolution of Clif Bar’s “Project 2080,” its employee community service program (the company pledges to donate at least 2,080 hours of service annually – the amount one full-time employee works in a year).  The week-long community building experience is designed to unite individuals around a common purpose and passion, providing them with an opportunity to share best practices while putting their positive energy to work for the city of New Orleans.

While in New Orleans, the team will work directly with three local organizations: Rebuilding Together, New Orleans Food and Farm Network, and Bayou Rebirth.  The week’s projects will focus primarily on Hollygrove, a neighborhood particularly hard hit by Hurricane Katrina.  In Good Company volunteers will help to restore the community by creating backyard gardens, helping to construct an urban food and farming center and working on habitat restoration.

Timberland’s own community engagement coordinator Brianne Wood is fortunate to be among the In Good Company volunteers, and will be sharing her observations and experiences with us here on Earthkeepers.  Until then, you can follow the group’s progress on the In Good Company blog.