Editor’s note: A group of Upstate students spent spring break in New Orleans rebuilding a house damaged by Hurricane Katrina. This is the second year Upstate’s Center for Civic Engagement has sponsored a trip to hard-hit St. Bernard Parish, still rebuilding from Katrina almost eight years later. Some of the students’ reflections and photos will appear in With Distinction.
Joshua Bonville, first-year medical student at Upstate:
Working with the St. Bernard’s Project in New Orleans was an incredibly rewarding experience. The amount of dedication and effort that this organization has put into getting residents back into their homes is truly inspiring. Even though Hurricane Katrina occurred way back in 2005, there is still so much work to be done.
Traveling outside of the city in the Lower Ninth Ward, it was frightening how fast the scenery changed from large, beautiful houses to those that had yet to recover from the hurricane’s damage. Such sights made it that much more incredible to see all of the work that goes into building a single house and being just a small part of the process.
Over the four days we spent working on our house, the 10 of us plus our AmeriCorps leader and the other group of students working in the morning managed to put up all the drywall for the interior of the house. Most of us were inexperienced, but with time we all became experts of the trade and each began filling little niches in the process.
Seeing the ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots of our week’s work was rewarding for all of us, yet even more incredible has been watching the work continue through other volunteers after we left. It has been about seven weeks since we left New Orleans, and the interior of the house looks amazing now as multiple groups have come and done their share of the project.
That has been my favorite part of the experience. Finishing such a project with one person would take years to accomplish. However, the power of an army of caring volunteers from all over the globe make such a feat happen every week through the St. Bernard’s Project.