Students in Service
Hurricane Relief for Spring Break
While typical college students on spring break were tanning and partying under a sweltering tropical sun, a smaller group of students was engaging in much messier—and much more meaningful—activities. These “alternative spring breakers” soaked up rays, too—but they did so while painting and gutting houses and talking to survivors in the hurricane-ravaged areas of
Forty-four students participated in the College’s two alternative spring break programs, both focused on relief efforts and sponsored by the Center for Student Leadership and Involvement. Many other students traveled to the region to work with outside relief organizations.
Journalism and Spanish major Adam Shepherd ’08 returned to
About 200 miles away in New Orleans, 30 IC students were engaged in similar projects: gutting houses, shoveling mud out of rooms, and even chain-sawing a tree off a roof. Each day they were given an assignment from the United Methodist Committee on Relief, which had received applications from homeowners in need of assistance.
One of the houses worked on by Stephanie Elowson ’08, a double-major in business administration and integrated marketing communications, was in
At each house the group was able to meet the homeowners. “We felt like we really got to know these people,” Elowson says, “and we got an inside look at their lives.”
Tschika Mcbean ’07, a sociology major who went to
From to on most days, McBean traveled on buses and walked around neighborhoods talking to people and recording their memories. She heard stories of people who spent days on rooftops, people who saw dead babies float by their houses, people who had sores on their skin from spending too much time in water, people who went days without food, people who survived but had to witness the deaths of others, unable to help.
One woman McBean met was still living in her hurricane-damaged house. “Even after six months, her house was a mess,” she says. “It reeked. There was mold all over the place. Stuff was still damp. I don’t know how she lived there.”
She also saw people just sitting on their steps or on street corners in their own worlds, dazed. “You work your entire life to build up this perfect dream,” she says, “and in one day it’s gone and there’s no one there to help you. You get crazy.”
For a week McBean immersed herself in the everyday struggles of survivors, watching as wealthy areas were revamped while poor minority communities withered. When she returned to campus, McBean immediately began looking for ways to return to
With a daunting amount of work still looming, the alternative spring breakers hope to inspire others to take similar trips to offer help to the devastated areas.