Seven years ago, The ACA started a wonderful project “Day of Giving” with only 32 volunteers. This year, the “Day of Giving” 2011n attracted more than 600 participants thanks to a wonderful ACA president, staff, and members. I had the honor to be part of ACA’s “Day of Giving”, Operation Nehemiah. One hundred and sixty ACA members/volunteers woke up at 5 am to participate in this amazing project that does not even have a budget! We spent several hours in the hot sun of New Orleans, cleaning the debris in the Holt cemetery that houses –amongst others- the long gone, Buffalo Soldiers. It was a breathtaking and inspiring experience, one that I will take with me and pass along in my community.
I did not know what to expect when I was handed my assignment which read “Operation Nehemiah”. At 6:45 AM I was in for a surprise: 160 ACA members were present and ready to roll up their sleeves, and work. As Michael D’Andrea put it, ACA is not going to eat the food, drink the drinks, and use the lodging facilities of the city that hosts our conference; there must be something we can do to repay the hospitality of the people of New Orleans, there must be something we can do for this community! And indeed, we did. We each grabbed work gloves, shovels, rakes, and other tools and started beautifying this wonderful cemetery that was so affected by the powerful Katrina. We each adopted several plots, pulled the weeds out, picked up the pieces of trash, leveled the graves, swiped their ledges, and cleaned the stones. The people buried in this cemetery are mostly African-Americans with limited financial possibilities; their living families lack the necessary time or resources, so the cemetery relies almost entirely on volunteers to give the dead the respect they deserve, regardless of race or economic situation.
I was so glad I attended and felt so proud that I am a member of such a noble and selfless organization with such kind hearted members; a wealth of counselors working side by side to practice what they preach: community involvement and dedication through empathy within a multicultural context.
Diana C. Pitaru is a counselor-in-training, and a student at Walden University. Her theoretical interests are in Gestalt, Art, and Narrative therapy while focusing on multicultural issues and eating disorders.