Valpo group joins in post-Katrina rebuilding work
What: Service trip to New Orleans

Who: 12 students, sponsored by Social Action Leadership Team

When: Spring break 2010

Quotable: “The people of New Orleans have plenty of hope, but I think seeing us and seeing people come to help them gives them more hope, and more of an idea of how many people are here for them.”  Molly Kestner, international service major

Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. Rebuilding continues - and will continue for years to come as the New Orleans region continues its recovery efforts following that devastating storm. Twelve Valparaiso University students and a staff chaperone traveled to New Orleans for the first week of spring break as part of a service trip sponsored by the Social Action Leadership Team.

The Valpo volunteers worked on the interiors of two flood-damaged houses and got the chance to plant trees along the coast in an effort to curb erosion. Along the way, the group got to know fellow volunteers and hosts at Camp Restore, a base of operations for service labor operated by Recovery Assistance Inc. Ministries at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward.

Amber Will, a sophomore political science and history major, said that back in 2005 she was home in Wausau, Wis., when Katrina hit. “The news didn’t even come close to what actually happened here,” she said. Seeing the aftermath up close “changed my perception of what Katrina actually did down here to these people.”

The students heard stores from three homeowners who are working to restore their homes years after the hurricane struck. The group also got the chance to have fun exploring the city, eating fresh seafood, and taking a driving tour led by local guides that showcased the continuing recovery efforts.

“We’re meeting new people and hearing their stories. We’re experiencing new things,” said sophomore Kathleen Parilac, a psychology major. “We’ve learned that every little bit counts.”