By Kerri-lyn Hernandez, Editor-in Chief
University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) students went to New Orleans over the recent spring vacation (Feb. 15th to the 24th) in order to help rebuild the city from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The disaster killed over 1800 people and there are still remains of the disasters, such as fallen homes to this day.
It came to the attention of the attendees of the trip that New Orleans is possibly in worse shape than many people realize, “The sheer amount of devastation that was caused to New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina is astounding and the recovery, although well underway, is not over. It was not possible to walk down the street in any part of the city and not see the imprint left by the storm,” said John Ahearn, a senior at UMF and trip member for the first time, in a recent email interview.
It is not only Ahearn who realizes the destruction of the city, “The affects of the hurricane are still very apparent throughout the entire city, many people have difficulty believe this, but frankly, I’m not making it up, that’s just how it is,” said Jacob Marcoux, staff representative of the trip and a senior at UMF in a recent online interview.
Those who went on the trip had schedules to abide by day by day, “This year, we worked with Habitat for Humanity and Journey 9th (a church). Each day student’s split up, and half went to one site and the other half to the other site. With Journey 9th we painted a home in the Lower 9th Ward… and with Habitat we had the opportunity to restore a home,” said Marcoux.
There was time to spend having fun or relaxing apart from the work that each member was committed to, “We woke up every day, worked until we returned for dinner with a lunch break in between, had a quick meeting after dinner and had most of the evenings free to spend our own way,” said Ahearn.
The main goal of the trip is definitely to help rebuild the city, however, those who went had another “goal” in mind, “to get students engaging with some of the deeper questions of life, and what it really means to love others from a Christian perspective,” said Marcoux, “We are a Christian club; however, we encourage all students, with varying philosophies and religions to participate, we’re not closed, we want to genuinely explore it.”
The trip to New Orleans is annual, starting in 2006 by Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (a national organization). “Many of the members of our trip were Intervarsity members; however, it was not a requirement. More than half of the total number of participants had little to no affiliation with Intervarsity,” said Ahearn.
Members who went on the trip served a purpose in helping restore New Orleans and shared a passion for helping others, “Service is something I value rather deeply,” said Marcoux, who has now been on the trip three times.