VISIONS is one of the few community service programs still returning to the Gulf Coast since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Along with grassroots leaders, civil rights activists, and devout environmentalists, VISIONS high school volunteers will work on inspirational social justice and conservation projects for one of the country's most important watersheds and the people who live there. When you’re not exercising your mind and muscles at the work sites, you’ll be canoeing in the bayou, eating terrific Cajun food, visiting New Orleans, and being welcomed by our incredible Southern hosts.
When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, Turkey Creek was the site of numerous historic homes and minority-run businesses. Residents had been working hard to obtain historic preservation status and build affordable housing. Now, the community is fighting to survive. Since 2006 and initially in response to Katrina, VISIONS teens have accomplished impressive service in Mississippi: environmental walkways, a 50’ footbridge, and a green-certified outdoor classroom where Robert Kennedy Jr. named one of our partners as the nation’s new Waterkeeper. Our volunteers also have planted trees, developed a community garden, and repaired homes damaged by Katrina. Partnerships with the Audubon Society and a local land trust are the heart of this high-quality summer program.
One of our partners: North Gulfport Land Trust, which preserves historic districts and provides affordable, high-quality housing. NGCLT also acquires land, provides community education for purchasing homes, and works collaboratively with other nonprofits to save ecological areas and wetlands.
We live in a warm and welcoming community with people who have preserved a culture handed down through the generations. Our closest liaisons are Mark LaSalle, Director of Pascagoula Audubon, whose Cajun hospitality and endless knowledge of coastal ecosystems delights us; and Rose Johnson, a fearless local advocate whose ancestors are among Turkey Creek’s first residents. Derrick Evans, also from a long Turkey Creek lineage, gives compelling accounts of Turkey Creek’s history and its position as a protective wetland. You’ll go to fish fries at the home of Flowers White and attend barbecues complete with live music and tall Southern tales. Days are jam-packed and lively, and you will gain a real feel for life in Coastal Mississippi.
"One of the best experiences I've had was my summer in Mississippi. Kids and leaders were great, and it was so rewarding when the community thanked us for the projects."
You'll fish on the bayou and take a flatboat spin to try crabbing. We spend a day in New Orleans, explore Dauphin Island beaches, and discover coastal backwoods by canoe and kayak. Throw in a beach barbeque with local friends, and it’s sure to be a summer to remember.
Our home in Mississippi is a community center located in the heart of the Turkey Creek neighborhood. It’s equipped with everything we need to make it our temporary home.
We go to work five days a week, ending mid- to late afternoon, and with a few projects to choose from each day. You will usually be on a construction or building crew, but there also are some environmental and social service projects. Once a week you will be on “homebase crew” with a few other participants and a leader. The crew prepares breakfast for everyone, runs errands and buys food for the next meals, does laundry, cleans our living space, helps our dinner cook if needed, and enjoys a “day in the life” of Turkey Creek.
After work ends each day there is time for nearby outings, activities in the neighborhood, playing with local kids, and sometimes a bit of downtime before dinner. In addition to afternoon activities, there are full-day excursions. The second, shorter session includes most of the same activities as the first session but with more condensed timeframes.
Meals include vegetarian and meat options, and always with enough for seconds. A few times a week, we have meetings in the evening to talk through the volunteer and exchange experience.
Unlike a teen tour with a day-to-day travel itinerary, we settle into our homebase and are part of local happenings. The itineraries provide highlights of our time in Mississippi.