New! December 2007 trip video

By Michelle Dangiuro
LEWISBURG, Pa. -- Most Christmas gifts come wrapped in paper and bows, but in December a team of 26 Bucknell students and staff members wrapped their gifts in plywood and nails when they traveled to New Orleans to build homes for Katrina relief work.

The Bucknell Katrina Recovery Team visited St. Bernard Parish Dec. 14-22 to help the New Orleans chapter of Habitat for Humanity construct homes for people still coping with damage from Hurricane Katrina.

"There still remains so much to be done," said Janice Butler, director of service-learning at Bucknell. "It being the third trip, there was a bit more optimism and hopefulness because people were moving back, and that felt good."

Home construction
The first two recovery teams from the University focused their work on debris clearing and house gutting. This time, home construction was a new task not only for the team, but also for individuals.

"I have never done any kind of construction before," recounted Jenna Crimaldi '08 in her Dec. 15 blog. "By the end of the day, a group of us were up on the roof placing and nailing boards almost on our own! (I was) surprised at how much progress we were able to make in just one day." (Read more dispatches from the Katrina Recovery Team.)

The team made even more progress in Waveland, Miss., Katrina's "ground zero," where they worked with Walls of Hope, an organization dedicated to rebuilding homes for elderly, disabled, or single-parent families. In two hours, half the team had insulated an entire house, a task slated to last all day, while the other half demolished a house a few blocks away.

Meeting Bucknell grads
A highlight was meeting two local Bucknell graduates: Matt Fraser '01, who attends Tulane University, and Carla Robertson '89, who works with New Orleans school teachers and spoke to the team about the school situation in Katrina's aftermath.

Based out of Camp Hope, a volunteer camp in a former school in St. Bernard Parish, an area that was entirely submerged during the hurricane, the team also visited New Orleans' lower ninth ward, another site of catastrophic flooding. 

"I thought I had a good understanding of the destruction that happened here, but videos, pictures and articles can't convey the damage that was done to the heart and soul of the city," Corey Teitz '09 wrote in his Dec. 16 blog. "There is so much work that still needs to be done here, and I hope that our work can help these people regain some sense of stability in their lives. I also hope that this experience will help other people realize that everything is not back to normal yet in the Big Easy."

Work to continue
According to Butler, students will continue Katrina relief work on campus in four key areas: raising funds to rebuild homes, providing supplies to under-resourced schools, advocating for the restoration of coastal wetlands and barrier islands, and getting elected officials to legislate fair and adequate insurance policies and practices.

"One week of service is one part of what needs to be done," Butler said, "and these are some of the suggestions from residents to the group, and some of the students want to follow through on them."

Another trip is scheduled for May 9-17 and space is still available. Those interested can get information by contacting Janice Butler.

Contact: Office of Communications

Posted Jan. 8, 2008

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