Students Return to Big
year and a half after the devastation in the Gulf Coast region from Hurricane Katrina,
large blocks of coastal communities, such as many parts of New Orleans, remain uninhabitable
with crude infrastructure and minimal housing.
Next week, during spring break, more than 80 Smith students
and another 20 from the four area colleges will travel to New Orleans to help build
homes for people who lost their houses during Hurricane Katrina.
The Five College team will join forces with more than
11,500 college students dedicating their spring breaks to the Habitat for Humanity “Collegiate
Challenge” in New Orleans.
Habitat for Humanity is an international nonprofit agency
that builds and rehabilitates homes, using volunteers and donations of money and
materials, for people in need in an effort to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness.
Smith and other Five College students have volunteered
with the agency for the past two spring breaks, traveling to South Carolina in 2005
and to Florida and New Orleans last year. This year’s group of about 100 students
will join teams working to build 70 homes in New Orleans’ St. Bernard’s
Parish and Upper 9th Ward for displaced musicians and other families. Those two communities
were among the most devastated during the 2005 hurricane.
In addition to building houses, the Smith and Five College
students have teamed to raise about $15,000 for Gulf Coast relief efforts, says Chandler
Patton ’07, chair of Smith’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity.
“The ultimate goal of this trip is to work with
New Orleans residents so that they can move back to the city to be part of the rebuilding
process,” she said. “Each student will be part of different projects,
and hear different stories.”
Patton, who has worked with Habitat for Humanity since
her early high school years, has served on the organization’s National Campus
Chapters Advisory Board, and helped re-charter the Smith chapter during her first
year on campus.
“My first day working for Habitat I helped put
up dry wall with the woman who eventually moved into the home,” she recalls. “I
loved that I was working with her, as a partner in building her home.”
Patton has been involved in every Habitat for Humanity
spring break trip while at Smith, including a trip to New Orleans last year.
“We work hard during the day and we will have
a great time enjoying all New Orleans has to offer in the evening,” she says. “For
me, it is about balance. Last year, when I was in New Orleans, we would go in our
work clothes to Café du Monde for café au lait and beignets.”
After they return, the students plan to compile photo
exhibits documenting their experience, and schedule forums and lectures to discuss
issues around the Katrina catastrophe, Patton said.
“We hope that after this trip we will be able
to continue to educate and inform the Smith community about poverty housing in New
Orleans, in our community and around the world.”