Katrina Rebuild Over Winter Break
Over winter break, 24 Fairfield students and two staff continued Fairfield’s tradition of traveling to New Orleans to help in rebuilding efforts that are still ongoing in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The trip was coordinated by LEAF – “Leaders in Environmental Action at Fairfield.”
Alexandra Tarabour ’13, who has been a part of this trip since her freshman year, returned for her senior year as one of the group’s student leaders and took on the task of organizing the entire endeavor. Throughout the fall, “NOLA” participants raised funds to pay for the trip through fundraising letters, sales of t-shirts and candy-grams, and benefit nights and percentage sales/donations at local Fairfield restaurants.
“It’s such a great experience knowing that you’re doing something to help someone in need. And getting do it alongside such a great group of students who gave up time on their semester breaks made it that much more special,” said Colleen McGinn, associate director of Alumni Relations, who, along with Kimberly LoPiano ’04, manager of young alumni giving and the student phonathon, once again volunteered to serve as the advisors to the group, having also gone in 2012.
“It was rewarding as not only a staff member, but as an alumna of Fairfield, to see these remarkable students come together in service to lend a hand down in New Orleans,” said LoPiano. “They were eager to do all they could to make a positive impact.”
The group created and maintained a New Orleans trip blog to document the experience. On it, they noted how surprising it was to still see how much help the city needed seven years after Katrina, saying that “After experiencing the traumatic effects of Hurricane Sandy in October, I think we all understand the damage and devastation of a natural disaster… the damage that storm [Katrina] caused was tremendous, and there is still a lot of need for help. These people and this community should not be forgotten!”
Once again, the Fairfield University contingent worked with Rebuilding Together: New Orleans, this year as part of their ongoing “Countdown to Kick-off” Super Bowl initiative. Fairfield students spent the week helping to restore a neighborhood in the Algiers section of New Orleans. They scraped, primed, and painted a two-family house and assisted with other projects, such as preparing for the installation of a new playground.
Residents of the neighborhood stopped by to thank the students, and tell them their stories. One neighbor told how he used to play basketball on the court, but now children in the neighborhood were scared to walk down the block. He was thankful that the place where he grew up was finally going to be a place “where kids can play again.”
On their last day in New Orleans, the group volunteered at the Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter, painting an exam room, filing paperwork, creating signs, and, of course, walking and playing with the dogs. “This visit was an emotional roller coaster for many of us,” wrote one student. “We learned that three-quarters of the animals in the shelter would end up being put down because they were too wild or sick to be adopted.”
In the evenings, the group had time to take in the sights and enjoy New Orleans culture. They toured the Lower Ninth Ward, took in an authentic New Orleans Jazz Band on Frenchman Street, enjoyed beignets at Café du Monde, cheered on the New Orleans Hornets at an NBA game, and even spotted some alligators on a swamp tour through the marshes of Slidell, La.
Fairfield was invited to visit students at the Loyola University New Orleans campus, along with others who were in town from Rockhurst University. The students heard first-hand testimony from a recent Loyola graduate who was also a Katrina survivor. At the end of the night, one Loyola staff member reminded students that trips like this, where individuals reach out to others in need, were special “moments of humanity.” “It’s not the place that makes the place, it’s the people who make the place.”
In the blog, students thanked their supporters. “We made friends while making a difference. You have sent us on an amazing journey, and although short and sweet, we will each be leaving with 25 new friends.”
Click here to find out more about LEAF and its activities.