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Hello and welcome to my first blog post!

My name is Emily Dean and I am a biology major with a genomics concentration, minoring in chemistry and music.

This summer I’m volunteering at the SELA (Southeastern Louisiana) Red Cross, helping to coordinate presentations of and volunteers for the Pillowcase Project. Before I came to NOLA, I was very excited to volunteer with a program that started right here during Katrina. The idea for the Pillowcase Project came from the watching college students at Loyola and Tulane bring their belongings out of their dorm using pillowcases while evacuating for Katrina. Now, the Pillowcase Project is sponsored by companies around the world, and presentations are given all over the U.S. and abroad.

The Pillowcase Project is an emergency preparedness program directed at kids aged 8-10 (3rd-5th grade). Presenters visit schools, camps, and places of worship in order to give a 40 or 60 minute presentation on a local hazard, coping skills, and home fire safety. Then each student receives a pillowcase that they can color on to make their own emergency preparedness kit.

This first week in NOLA has shown me many things. First, it has showed me how interesting the Big Easy really is! Music permeates the city, there are festivals all the time, the food is delicious, and there is always something to do. Nearly every person we’ve spoken to is distinctly passionate about NOLA, more so than any other city I’ve visited. I’ve also learned that everyone in New Orleans walks around with a story about ‘the storm’. Others have shared their stories about Katrina with us during taxi rides to Walmart, on the streetcar during the commute to the Red Cross, and driving across the 23-mile bridge on Lake Pontchartrain. Hearing these stories and learning about the causes and impact of Katrina on the city as a whole has given each of us a unique opportunity to listen.

This week has also shown me some of my weaknesses and strengths as a volunteer. While I can be very organized and productive, I can also become overwhelmed if time-pressure becomes a factor. I tend to overthink and over prepare, which can make tasks seem more daunting than they actually are. I was glad to have other DukeEngage students at the Red Cross this week, so I could check myself and create collaborative goals that truly addressed our task.

I’m very excited for the rest of the program!

Until next week,

Emily Dean

Red Cross
DukeEngage volunteers at the Red Cross
23-mile Bridge
View from the Lake Pontchartrain 23-mile Bridge