Building back better in New Orleans

June 21, 2011
As an employee of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, I often hear stories about how our work helps children in far-away places. Togo, Vietnam, Haiti and the Central African Republic are just a few of the countries that have directly benefitted from my work on the UNICEF Tap Project. However, as a former teacher in the New York City Public School system, I am all-too-familiar with the ways in which poverty deeply affects children here in the United States as well.
As an employee of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, I often hear stories about how our work helps children in far-away places. Togo, Vietnam, Haiti and the Central African Republic are just a few of the countries that have directly benefitted from my work on the UNICEF Tap Project. However, as a former teacher in the New York City Public School system, I am all-too-familiar with the ways in which poverty deeply affects children here in the United States as well.

Tara Broughel is an Officer with the Program and Strategic Partnerships Team at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF

As an employee of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, I often hear stories about how our work helps children in far-away places. Togo, Vietnam, Haiti and the Central African Republic are just a few of the countries that have directly benefitted from my work on the UNICEF Tap Project. However, as a former teacher in the New York City Public School system, I am all-too-familiar with the ways in which poverty deeply affects children here in the United States as well.

Volunteers at the Sam Bonart Park in the Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans.
U.S. Fund for UNICEF/2011
Volunteers at the Sam Bonart Park in the Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans.

On a recent visit to New Orleans, I was reminded of this fact while helping to rebuild Sam Bonart Park in the Lower Ninth Ward. I'm sure many of you can remember the haunting images of residents of the Lower Ninth Ward struggling during the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans is still rebuilding, but progress in many parts of the city is palpable. The Lower Ninth Ward still has a ways to go though, so I was happy to lend a hand during the 2011 National Conference on Volunteering and Service. One entire morning of the conference was devoted to rebuilding some of the city's parks in areas that are still rebuilding after Katrina. That morning at the park where I was stationed, more than 150 volunteers constructed a playground, planted trees, built a gazebo, painted benches and refurbished Sam Bonart park. That same day a public pool opened in the park, to help the local kids cool off during the hot New Orleans summer. A new baseball field is the next project in the works for Sam Bonart Park.

Volunteers and service programs like Americorps have been at the heart of much of the progress made in New Orleans during the last six years, but the true credit goes to the residents and locals who have persevered through immense hardship in order to reconstruct their communities from near-total devastation. While spending time in New Orleans during the conference, I heard a common theme-build back better. This struck me because it mirrors UNICEF's own theme during emergencies abroad.

It feels good to give back by helping kids here at home enjoy the kind of green (and play) space that they deserve. And I also continue to take pride in my work here at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, on behalf of children and communities on the other side of the world-so that we can help them build back better as well.