Habitat rebuilds New Orleans

Chronicle Staff


By David Burton

During the first week of spring break, students constructed the foundation for a house in New Orleans that would be occupied by a family left homeless by Hurricane Katrina. Partnering with Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building houses for low-income families around the world, students continued the four-year tradition of building houses in New Orleans.

Throughout the school year students volunteer at Habitat for Humanity chapters around the greater Los Angeles area, and since 2007, have annually volunteered at the Habitat for Humanity chapter in Louisiana.

“We saw the effect that Hurricane Katrina had on the people of Louisiana and we wanted to extend a helping hand to those who were suffering,” school chaplin Father J. Young said, “so we made the New Orleans Habitat trip an annual event.”

On the first day on the construction site, students were met with a huge pile of sand that they shoveled and spread out across the backyard. The sand was then leveled off and watered down.

“This was not a normal pile of sand,” Evan Jackson ’11 said. “It took us about four hours to flatten it out across the area that we would build on.”

Under the supervision of professional construction workers and Habitat counselors, students began to put together the foundation of the house. Massive wood planks and boards were nailed together into place after being cut and modified by the professionals.

Students worked with recurring volunteers native to Louisiana, student volunteers from New York University and the future and past recipients of Habitat houses.

“We didn’t get a chance to meet the family we were building the house for, but we did get a chance see the dedication of another house to a single mother and her son,” Adel Kamal ’11 said. “You could tell how much the house meant to her, and it allowed us to understand the importance of our work and also to appreciate our blessings.”

During their free time, students explored the prominent culture that New Orleans has to offer. Taking advantage of opportunity, students ventured to Bourbon Street, New Orleans Hornets basketball games and dined at local restaurants serving Cajun style dishes.

“The nightlife in New Orleans was really cool, but as soon as morning hit it was back to work,” Max Zipperman ’10 said.

Towards the end of the week, what started as an enormous mound of dirt and sand emerged into the foundation of a brand new house for a family in need.

The efforts of the students were not ignored by the people of New Orleans. Southern hospitality was demonstrated when students met a woman while ordering lunch who offered to pay. After learning about the students volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity, the woman offered to pay for all the students’ lunches.

“It goes to show you how charitable the Habitat for Humanity organization is,” Young said. “Our New Orleans trip is truly a touching experience.”