LEWISBURG, Pa. -- A delegation of 26 Bucknell students, faculty, and staff will visit the hurricane-ravaged New Orleans area before Christmas to erect housing and to get a first-hand look at how the region is coping with recovery more than two years after Hurricane Katrina.
The Bucknell Hurricane Katrina Recovery Team is the third delegation from the University to visit the area since the August 2005 hurricane and will be deployed in the St. Bernard Parish area, just outside New Orleans, where it will work alongside the New Orleans chapter of Habitat for Humanity to build new houses.
"Some of the work we'll be doing is different than previous delegations in that we're working on rebuilding homes," said Janice Butler, director of the Office of Service-Learning at Bucknell. "In the past, we were mostly involved in gutting work. That is, clearing debris and taking out wet sheetrock and other kinds of material from people's homes so that they could rebuild.
Rebuilding effort "This year, we're excited we're going to be part of the rebuilding effort and, hopefully, trying to get some families back into their homes in time for the New Year," said Butler.
St. Bernard Parish, located across the Mississippi River from the French Quarter in New Orleans, was especially hard hit in the hurricane.
"This parish received a great deal of damage," said Butler. "It's adjacent to the lower ninth ward in New Orleans, but 100 percent of the homes and businesses in the area were flooded. It's been a long road to recovery and people are starting to move back in and moving out of their FEMA trailers and into their homes again as they are being rebuilt."
'Ground zero' In addition, the Bucknell delegation will spend one day in Waveland, Miss., to see firsthand the damage caused as the eye of Hurricane Katrina passed over that area, the storm's so-called "ground zero."
"In Mississippi, the damage was different because it was mostly from the storm surge, that 30-foot wave that came in on top of the ocean water," she said.
While there, the group will work with Walls of Hope, an organization that assembles pre-fabricated housing.
Frame structure "Our team will be involved in actually bolting together a house that's pre-fabricated and getting it situated on site," said Butler. "We're hopeful we can get the large part of a frame structure together in one day."
Bud Hiller, a technology support specialist at Bucknell and a co-leader on the trip, said he volunteered for the role because "there is so much that still needs to be done in New Orleans and I wanted to be part of the relief effort. In Nicaragua with the (Bucknell) Brigade, I've seen Bucknell students and staff come together for service learning. This shared commitment is a great example for the rest of the campus."
The delegation also will meet with a Bucknell graduate, Carla Robertson '89, who works in the New Orleans school district, to talk about the education issues in the hurricane-distressed city.
Mini-curriculum Two returning student participants have helped to develop a mini-curriculum that will help volunteers to understand the context in which they will be working. Those briefings cover areas as diverse as the levee system, economics, race, public health, and the environment.
The Katrina volunteers will leave Lewisburg the day after fall semester exams end, Dec. 14, and return from the New Orleans area on Dec. 22.
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