Colleen Earp

YAV Year: South Louisiana (I say that instead of New Orleans, because I lived in New Orleans, but I worked mostly outside of the city along the coast, out of a church in Bayou Blue) 2013-2014

Now: Richmond, VA

What broke your heart?
I was on a 52 mile paddle trip down Bayou Lafourche, the main source of drinking water for a few hundred thousand people. It had rained on and off, and when we passed under one of the many open-grate bridges over the bayou, a drop fell from the bridge onto my head. I assume it was water, but it could have easily been some kind of car fluid, dripping right into the bayou. I had this horrible moment of clarity when I realized just how threatened the water source is, by cars driving over it, or garbage washing off the highway in a rainstorm, and so many other issues. Water is such a precious resource and should be a basic human right, but we rarely hear about the struggle for clean water my friends down bayou are having
What’s one of your most vivid memories from your year?
The first time I participated in an open water grass planting. We planted different wetlands grasses in badly eroded areas to help catch sediments and rebuild the coast. I stepped off the side of the boat and sank in the boue pourrie, the “rotten mud”, all the way up to my waist. It was so peaceful to swim around the bayou and wade through the cool mud on a warm, sunny day, pushing plants into the soft ground. We saw an alligator and a lot of herons. A planting like that can reverse erosion in just a few months. It was such a beautiful way to experience nature.
What’s one thing you learned?
Just one?