Students Spend Spring Break To Help Recovery Efforts

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VOLUNTEERSSpring break in New Orleans is not uncommon, but as WGNO News Reporter Darian Trotter shows us, for dozens of students from out of state it’s a break full of community service.

They are students dedicated to making a difference, but not solely in their own neighborhoods.

Instead about a dozen students have traveled from as far away as Chicago, Illinois and Santa Clara, California to help with post Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts during what would have been their spring break.

“It’s been really really great, it’s been awesome,” Northwestern University student Maria Aiura said. “They really let us get in there and get our hands dirty.”

But these volunteers aren’t looking for praise.

“It’s more about getting things done that are long overdue,” Northwestern University student Bryan Matias said.

Bryan Matias was 13-years old when Hurricane Katrina hit.

“I consider myself a bit of a carpenter. I build set for a lot of plays so I have those kinds of skills and I just wanted to put them to some kind of good use.”

The Catholic Scholars Program has provided student volunteers throughout the past several years.

This 12th trip is to the city’s 9th ward, where students are helping to restore a home while the owner is away.

Neighbors applaud the community service.

“I think that it’s wonderful that those children would take their spring break and come down to New Orleans and help,” Barbara Harris said.

“It helps this neighborhood a lot. It’s just so much blight if you look around; there are so many empty houses,” Ron Sissman said.

Chaperone Tim Higgins, with the Catholic Charities Program says the efforts here not only benefit the community, students will walk away with something too.

“Well I think it teaches them a sense of hospitality and welcome. It also has taught them how blessed people have felt even amongst their difficulties.” people have said to us when we first started coming down even now, thank you for coming down because you provide us with a sense of hope that we haven’t been forgotten,” Higgins says.

Student volunteers have been working at the home on rotation the past several weeks.

It will be awhile longer before the work is complete and the home owner moves back in.