By Akshay Bhansali
NEW ORLEANS — Robin Albers of Chalmette, Louisiana, is a strong woman. She's 33 years old, and her resilience, conviction and belief in humanity will leave you in awe.
In August 2005, Robin did what any responsible parent living in the New Orleans area would have done: She packed her family into a car and tried to evacuate the city.
"I knew this would be the mother of all storms. It was our time to go," she told MTV News. But a health complication with her mother would eventually have her return home just as the storm approached.
Wading in foot after foot of Hurricane Katrina's wake, Robin waited on rooftops. She would forgo her safety, telling police to save others first. She commanded a flatboat with her then-preteen daughter, Denise, her mother and the family dogs (both hers and her mother's, which gave birth to a fresh litter during the storm).
After the waters receded, Robin's home was set for demolition, and she has since moved six times in three years. She began to collect and purchase things for her future new home — all stored in a U-Haul with the possession that meant the most: her family picture album. She was devastated when the U-Haul was later stolen.
While adversity like this would break any normal person, Robin has persevered for her daughter's sake, and today, both of them look forward to their future in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana.
"It's important for me to stay here, because this is my daughter's community. This is our home, and we are coming home!"
The Albers still expect the very best from humanity because young folks today have not let them think otherwise. Enter the St. Bernard Project: a nonprofit organization that rebuilds homes in St. Bernard Parish and is made up of volunteers from around the world. These are the young kids who have taken on the plight of St. Bernard Parish — including Robin Albers — and shown their conviction in a sense of communal duty.
"The St. Bernard Project is a blessing in my life. All the volunteers sacrificing their lives to make our community 'home' again ... is awesome," Robin enthused.
And so as "change" formally sweeps into Washington, D.C., tomorrow, and as President-elect Barack Obama's youth brigade celebrates the victory, know that change doesn't stop there. The young men and women of the St. Bernard Project carry with them the same creed in a race to complete the renovations to Robin Albers' new home. Can they finish in time?
"Be the Change: Live From the Inaugural" will air live on MTV on Tuesday, January 20, at 10 p.m. ET/PT. MTV News will have wall-to-wall coverage of the event and of the scenes in Washington, D.C., New Orleans and Kenya in the days leading up to the event and in the days that follow.