Katrina Recovery Team spends holiday break rebuilding homes

Olivia Martini, Contributing Writer

The University’s Katrina Recovery Team (KRT), consisting of 16 students and 4 staff members, traveled to New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf regions from Nov. 18 to Nov. 25. Janiel Slowly ’19 and Jake Dixon ’18 operated as co-leaders and Nayte Carter ’19 worked as the media coordinator for the trip.

For more than 10 years, the University’s Katrina Recovery Team (KRT) has traveled to New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf regions to help rebuild homes and businesses destroyed during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. Although 12 years have passed since the hurricane, the team finds that there is still a tremendous amount of work to accomplish.

“Many homes have yet to be restored to livable condition, and vacant lots remain a common sight,” KRT leader and Assistant Director of  Service-Learning Kyle Bray said.

KRT is involved with the St. Bernard Project, a nonprofit organization that aims to minimize the time between disaster and recovery. In recent years, KRT’s work has transitioned from gutting and clearing damaged houses for reconstruction to focusing on rebuilding homes.

“The November 2017 KRT trip was different than past experiences, as the group worked on two homes in New Orleans East that not only were damaged by Hurricane Katrina, but were also hit by tornadoes earlier this year,” Bray said.

The crew members learned new skills, such as how to sand drywall, and also had the opportunity to work alongside some of the property owners.

“Although we are doing a lot of work on a blank wall with dust everywhere; this is where parents raised their children,” Esmely Munoz ’20 said.

Nights often included reflection sessions, prompting in depth discussion and answering questions such as, “What is Home for you?, What does Home looks like for you in five years?, and what does it mean to help build someone’s home?”

“It is important to think about the idea that we are stepping into people’s homes and doing work in an effort to help them in any way that we can. It is definitely super personal and this motivates me to perform to the best of my ability, because someone’s home is a big deal,” Maha Kourikchi ’18 said.

In addition to three pre-trip sessions, KRT participants visited the Hurricane Katrina exhibit in the Louisiana State Museum and listened to guest speakers share their experiences of the storm to deepen their understanding of the impact of the hurricane.

“Service is needed not only in this community, but in many communities all over the world. So, in a world of divided views, social classes, and races, New Orleans provides us examples of what happens when we stay divided but also what happens when we unite together,” Mike Duignan, Director of Campus Activities and Programs, said.

The Katrina Recovery Team is constantly looking to raise awareness and to recruit new members to join their mission. If you are interested in participating in KRT’s next trip to New Orleans as part of the relief effort, contact the Office of Civic Engagement either in the Bertrand Library or through email at [email protected].

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