Students spend break in New Orleans for Katrina Recovery

Julia de la Parra, Contributing Writer

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Each year, a group of University students travels to New Orleans for a service trip dedicated to aiding those affected by the devastating Hurricane Katrina that occurred in 2005. Though it has been 10 years since Hurricane Katrina first hit the beaches of New Orleans, the city is still in the process of returning to its former glory.

The students who travel to New Orleans have worked consistently with a foundation called the St. Bernard Project. Together with other volunteers, this year’s students worked to rebuild homes that had been destroyed by the hurricane.

“The project also works on destroyed homes to sell to first-time homeowners that were living in New Orleans at the time of Katrina,” Melody Sonnemann ’18 said.

“On one of the days that it rained, we spent the day demo-ing an owner-occupied rebuild. This house was rebuilt after Katrina with toxic drywall. So after the money and time spent to rebuild, the house was ultimately uninhabitable,” Madison Bonessi ’17 said. “It was a great feeling to begin the work on this house the day after funding became available.”

Bonessi and the team used sledgehammers to break down the drywall and were able to remove all of the toxic insulation.

Bonessi said it surprised her that New Orleans still has such a lack of funding even after the disaster.

“The lack of governmental presence/funding, the FEMA response, contractor fraud, shortcomings of levee design, and faulty construction materials all have contributed to Katrina being largely a manmade disaster,” Bonessi said.“Many of us felt frustration and confusion when we considered these controversial topics and what could and should have been done.”

Throughout the team’s week-long stay in the Big Easy, students also got to participate in a special experience of serving Thanksgiving dinner to families that were unable to make their own meals for the holiday.

“After working for a week on someone’s future home who had been through so much and in addition to that, serving a meal to those less fortunate on Thanksgiving has truly put in perspective how blessed and lucky I am to have my home and my family,” Sonnemann said.

If you are interested in going on one of the next service trips for the Katrina relief effort, contact the Office of Civic Engagement located in Bertrand Library or via email at civic-engagement@bucknell.edu.

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