Top 6 Volunteer Experiences in New Orleans

by Julie Schwietert Jul 15, 2008

Photo by Julie Schwietert

Rebuilding a city after a natural disaster takes lots of hands and hearts. New Orleans is the perfect voluntourism destination and offers hundreds of opportunities to help.

6. Latino Farmers’ Co-op

Co-op founder Kathia Duran recognizes that part of rebuilding New Orleans involves providing residents with work… and with food. The Latino Farmers’ Co-op will eventually do both.

Planted on what was a rough corner lot in Central City, the Latino Farmers’ Co-op will eventually supply local residents and restaurants with fresh vegetables and fruits. To realize the dream, Duran says, lots of volunteer help is needed. If you’re in New Orleans for a day or more, you can get your hands in the dirt and help directly with some gardening.

If you’re in New Orleans for a longer period of time, the Co-op could use your skills in website development, fundraising, and grant and partnership research. For more information, contact Duran at:

5. Green Light New Orleans

One of the silver linings in the cloud of Hurricane Katrina is that rebuilding the city from the ground up provided urban planners and residents the opportunity to design a greener city.Green Light New Orleansis playing an important role in greening the new New Orleans by attempting to correct urban poverty and environmental degradation through an energy efficient light bulb distribution program.

Volunteers go directly to residents’ homes to install energy-efficient lightbulbs, so this opportunity is perfect for anyone visiting the city, even if for just a few hours.

To volunteer, e-mail

Photo by Julie Schwietert

4. Edible Schoolyard New Orleans

Possibly the coolest school in the United States, the Samuel J. Green Charter School for kindergarteners through eighth graders is an urban oasis where classroom lessons are supported and reinforced through hands-on experiences in the school’s organic garden.

The Edible Schoolyard New Orleans is a teaching garden where students learn “the transformative values of nourishment, community, and stewardship of the land.”

Kids are involved in every aspect of the garden’s care: from planning and planting to harvesting and cooking meals. ESYNOLA offers numerous opportunities to volunteers, including helping with gardening and cooking classes, providing support during weekly activities, and performing general garden maintenance.

To inquire about volunteering with the Edible Schoolyard contact Renee Allie at:

3. Habitat for Humanity

Most people know about Habitat’s volunteer opportunities, which involve building homes, but did you know that Habitat NOLA needs 500 volunteers a week if it hopes to achieve its goal of building 1,500 homes in the next five years?

Click here to learn more about the sign-up process for volunteering with Habitat in New Orleans.

2. New Orleans Adolescent Hospital

The rate of mental health problems skyrocketed in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and social service programs have had difficulty responding to the overwhelming need for counseling and psychosocial services. The New Orleans Adolescent Hospital is seeking volunteers who are able to facilitate recreational activities for young people in a hospital setting.

This opportunity is perfect for someone who plans to be in New Orleans for an extended period of time. Contact Allison Dillman at 504-897-4639.

1. The Green Project

The Green Project is a non-profit organization that runs a retail store and warehouse selling recycled building materials to local residents. The Green Project also oversees paint recycling programs and runs a garden, so many different opportunities exist for volunteers with a passion for environmental issues. E-mail to offer your skills.

community connection

Didn’t find something on our list that matches your interests or skills? Check out Volunteer New Orleans or VolunteerMatch, both of which allow you to plug in your skills, dates of availability, and other data to find a great volunteer experience for you.

In New Orleans for just a short stay or can’t get to New Orleans but still want to help? Drop by Café Reconcile for a delicious lunch. This work and life skills program for at-risk teens funnels your lunch bill into a number of important community-building projects. They also accept donations.

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