By Nicaela Giglia – Editor
Over their February break University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) students will be traveling down to New Orleans, LA as part of the Katrina Relief Urban Project (KRUP) to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.
KRUP is a part of the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship of New England and was brought to the UMF Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (IV) last year. According to one of the student organizers, Jacob Marcoux, “IV made a commitment to serve with Habitat for Humanity until [New Orleans] was recovered” and that schools go down to New Orleans on different weeks of the year; usually during their vacation.
“I had completely forgot about Katrina, but there is so much to be done. I had wanted to help out in a foreign country” but there are things do in our own country, said Abby Hersom, junior and student organizer. “It is great to do something productive with my break.”
Marcoux said that the total cost of the trip which includes the bus ride, place to stay and cost to work with Habit for Humanity is $575. “We don’t want money to be an issue. Some people pay the full $575” but others are sponsored by KRUP members or are assisted financially with fundraising money.
“It is unreal that it is next week. We took all of the fall semester to get ready. It is almost like a yearlong event” with all the fundraising preparation, said Marcoux. “When we get down there, that will be the easy part.”
Hersom said that KRUP used a wide variety of fundraising techniques which included bake sales, selling t-shirts and bracelets, bottle drives, a rummage sale and a Pizza Hut fundraiser.
“We are in a deficit as of right now, but we’ll get there,” said Marcoux.
Marina Giovannini, junior and first time participant with KRUP said she “did the bake sale, sold t-shirts and the bottle drive, ate some good pizza and asked for donations from friends and family.”
“It was a pretty big devastation and after a while people put it out of their mind and focused on other places that had been hit by disasters. I don’t think it will ever be back to the way it used to be, but we can get it close,” said Giovannini.
Out of the approximately 34 UMF students going “half of the group isn’t a part of IV” said Marcoux. “The more people the better,” added Hersom.
One of highlights of the trip for Thomas West, junior and student organizer is “the conversations we have in the evenings” about their faith and what they are doing in New Orleans. All three of the student organizers stressed the fact that they don’t want anyone to feel pressured into their Christian beliefs.
“We don’t push it. Everyone’s opinion is valued and it is just conversation among peers,” said Hersom.
Giovannini agreed with this and said that “the building restoration for some of us is partly to do with God, but for those who are not Christian it will still be a meaningful experience to help other humans.”
The KRUP members all hope to change and grow from their experience in New Orleans this February break. “Last year it changed how I looked at things and dealt with situations. It reminds me that there is a different perspective on things,” said West.
“It comes down to being involved and a intersection between faith and service…and growing in faith and as a individual,” said Marcoux.
“I don’t see it has something that benefits me personally. Last year it was really rewarding to help,” said Hersom. “There was a man who helped build who didn’t even have a house of his own. It challenges the way I look at my life. I have a lot to offer.”
KRUP will be traveling the 30 hour bus ride to New Orleans and will be leaving on Feb. 17th and returning to UMF on Feb. 25th.