Barry students re-visit New Orleans, continue to assist relief efforts
April 2, 2008
Contact: Julianna M. Pietak
Barry University students re-visit New Orleans, continue to assist long-standing relief efforts during their spring break
Other student group travels to Atlanta to help with city’s homeless children and families
Miami Shores, Fla. - More than 15 students travelled from Barry University in Miami Shores to New Orleans recently – returning to a city they had visited last year to assist with ongoing Hurricane Katrina clean-ups efforts.
While there, students helped clean and gut a school, St. Mary’s Academy High School, which was flooded under over seven feet of water in the 2005 disaster, and is now scheduled to be demolished. In addition, they volunteered with the Episcopal Diocese of New Orleans, who also helped organize last year’s volunteer efforts, to help gut a home in the Lower Ninth Ward.
The trip held many new experiences for first-timers, but also drew on memories for those returning from last year.
In particular, the group visited the St. Augustine’s All Boys School. This school was particularly hard hit during Hurricane Katrina, with many students losing parents and homes during the disaster. Barry’s students visited the school last year, and returned this year to be treated to a surprise concert from the schools marching band.
“They had so much passion as compared to last year,” said site leader Danielle Jackman. “They really opened up to the new participants about their experience during Katrina, losing homes, losing parents. It was still hard for them to talk about it.”
In addition, the students independently made a return visit to the home they helped gut last year through the Episcopal Diocese. They were disappointed to see that, although a year had passed, no further work had been done on the house. The visit was an eye-opener, and an indication of the amount of work still needing to be done in the city.
“It had been a year,” said site leader, and returner, Lupita Murphy, “and it looked like we had just been there yesterday.”
The trip was organized as part of Barry’s Alternative Spring Break program, a student-run initiative that organizes community service trips for students during the university’s spring break. In addition to organizing the community service, Barry students fund and plan every aspect of the trip – even renting vans to drive themselves to locations as far away as New Orleans and Atlanta, where another group travelled this year.
If you would like to interview any of the students who went on the New Orleans trip, please contact me at any of the numbers listed below. The trip is an interesting feature idea, with Barry students offering perspectives both as first-timers, and returners who have seen the progress, or lack thereof, in the city.
A group of nine Barry University students also spent their spring break performing community service in Atlanta recently, working first-hand towards addressing the city’s problems of homeless families and children.
Barry’s students volunteered for two days at the Atlanta Children’s Shelter, which is home to more than 40 children, all under the age of five. More than 85 percent of the families at the shelter are those of single mothers, many of whom have become homeless due to domestic violence. The shelter assists these families by providing clothing, career assistance and temporary housing.
While there, Barry students interacted with these children, taking them outside to play, participating in their daily classroom activities and helping them with arts and crafts.
“Going in I think we thought the kids would be emotionally different from other kids, but were so surprised when we met them,” said site leader Fred Day. “They laughed and played like any other children. We went to the shelter Monday and Wednesday, and each day became more attached to the kids. They were all very smart and just wanted so much of your attention.”
For the second part of the week, the students then helped construct a home through Habitat for Humanity. It was only at the end of this building process, however, that they discovered that this home, like 80 percent of Habitat for Humanity homes in Atlanta, would be given to a homeless single mother and her family – much like those they had met earlier in the week at the Atlanta Children’s Shelter.
“We really learned a lot about the homelessness problems in Atlanta, especially for single mothers,” Day said. “We learned that homelessness in Atlanta was among the top in the nation, especially when it came to single mothers, many of whom become homeless due to foreclosure, divorce or domestic violence.”
The trip was part of Barry’s Alternative Spring Break program, a fully student-run program that sends students to perform community service in various parts of the country for spring break each year. Barry students organize and initiate all trips, from fundraising efforts, to planning the community service, to driving themselves in vans from Miami to the selected locations.
If you would like to interview any of the students on the Atlanta trip, please contact me at any of the numbers listed below. The trip is an interesting feature as, like all of Barry’s Alternative Spring Break trips, it is fully student run, and allows Barry students to deal first-hand with daunting social issues, such as homelessness in Atlanta and those affected by it.