While most of us were spending our Thanksgiving break relaxing at home, 16 students and three chaperones went to New Orleans for six days to help rebuild houses that were destroyed during Hurricane Katrina.
Throughout their trip they worked on three houses, which were all at different stages of repair. The students worked on these houses with Project Homecoming, an independent program to help those in need.
Director of Service Learning Colin Hurley was one of the chaperones that accompanied the students.
“Sometimes we had to go backwards to go forwards,” Hurley said.
Some of the existing houses needed to be gutted before they could prepare for rebuilding. When they were ready to be restored, there were various jobs that had to be done to renovate the homes to their proper conditions.
When not working on the houses, the group got to explore New Orleans and help the city in additional ways. They volunteered at the local soup kitchen and helped give out food through the New Orleans mission.
Junior Bobby Sumner said this was his most rewarding experience.
“My most rewarding experience was going out and connecting with the homeless by giving them food and water because it’s a lot different from having people come in to a soup kitchen. We got to see them in their environment, rather than them coming to us. It was an eye-opening experience,” Sumner said.
Another student commented on his favorite experiences.
“I enjoyed meeting the house owner of where we were doing our build because it was good to see what our work was going toward,” said junior Joe LaGruth, “Also, Bourbon Street was a lot of fun.”
In addition, to visiting Bourbon Street, they went to the Po’ Boy Festival and toured the city.
“We dined with the rich and the poor,” Hurley said.
The trip gave students and chaperones the opportunity to grasp a deeper understanding of people of New Orleans and the city life.
Hurley also believed one of the elements students learned from this trip was the importance of community. As a group they shared meals, laughed and worked together, so as their trip was nearing its end, everyone was sad to see it end.
If you are interested in helping with upcoming builds or attending a similar trip, over spring break a group is going to North Carolina and spots are still available. You can contact Campus Ministry for more information.
In addition, Service Learning and Campus Ministry are planning on going to the New Jersey coast over spring break to help with the Hurricane Sandy relief.
To sign up for more service learning trips, visit the service learning page on the Mercyhurst portal.