Siobhan Arey hears a common refrain when she tells people that she and a handful of Upstate medical students spent spring break rebuilding a home damaged by Hurricane Katrina:
“Didn’t that happen a long time ago?”
Yes, in August 2005, and that’s the point.
“There are 8,000 to 10,000 families still without homes,” Siobhan said. “It’s amazing how much still needs to be done.”
Siobhan is program coordinator of Upstate’s Center for Civic Engagement as well as a student in our CNYMPH program. Last week she welcomed to campus Jessica Leigh Ryan, client services coordinator for the St. Bernard Project in New Orleans. Siobhan and Jessica are linked by AmeriCorps, the national volunteer service organization they’ve both served.
Jessica, a Syracuse native, spoke to Upstate first-year medical students about the St. Bernard Project, named for the parish (county) in the New Orleans area it serves by rebuilding homes and providing mental health services to residents.
Siobhan and five Upstate second-year medical students spent spring break helping to rebuild a home damaged by Hurricane Katrina. They rented a van for the 22-hour drive, slept in a church and spent eight hours a day putting up interior walls and ceilings, Sheetrocking and painting.
“It’s amazing how much work can get done in a week,” Jessica said. What’s amazing in a different sense, she said, is that almost seven years after Hurricane Katrina, there are still so many homes, schools, hospitals, churches and other public buildings boarded up.
Jessica showed slides of some of the families helped by the St. Bernard Project, as well as families still on the waiting list to get their homes back. Families that move back into their rebuilt homes regain their emotional strength, she said.
Second-year medical student CiCi Carter, one of the students on the March trip, said it was a rewarding experience even though it didn’t include anything clinically related to their studies. “That kind of work is a great way to keep in touch with communities,” she said. “These are the people we’re going to be serving some day in a medical way. It keeps you focused on what we’re actually here for.”
On the trip with Cici and Siobhan were students Matt Valente, Justin Taylor, Andrew Wight and Holden Heitner.
Any Upstate student interested in future trips to New Orleans can contact Siobhan in the Civic Engagement office, 0217 Weiskotten Hall, 315-464-8807.
“It’s one of the cooler things we’ve ever done,” she said. “I’m hoping we can establish a partnership with the St. Bernard Project.”