The month of March is synonymous with Mardi Gras and New Orleans. This year, the town commonly known for jazz and celebration, is being looked upon as one of the largest national disasters. While many people realize the devastation that has plagued New Orleans, 21 St. John’s students found out firsthand how serious the situation is during spring break.
Habitat for Humanity, a national organization known for rebuilding homes for the less fortunate, teamed up with Catholic Charities of New Orleans to help those whose homes were destroyed by water damage from Hurricane Katrina.
From Monday to Friday, volunteers worked from eight in the morning until four in the afternoon. Basic chores included ripping down ceilings and walls. Sometimes, with the help of the homeowner, the students would undergo the long process of going through personal possessions and deciding what could be kept and what could not. Once the main demolition work is done, the homeowners will hire electricians and plumbers to do any necessary repairs.
Therese Wycklendt, a senior speech and Spanish major, said the experience was “mind blowing.”
“The impression I had before I went was that there were a lot of problems,” Wycklendt said. “You hear a lot about people not having a trailer or a home to go to, but meeting someone personally who does not have a home was a different experience.
“People were definitely grateful that they were being helped,” Wycklendt added. “They were thrilled we came so far. They were just waiting for their name to get moved up the list so that their houses could be gutted.”
John Gorzynski, who also participated in the plunge to New Orleans felt that it was not just the physical labor that made the trip great.
“Not only did we start the construction of their houses, I think we brought hope to their lives,” Gorzynski said.
The students who participated in the event were from the Queens and Staten Island Campuses.
Wycklendt said she was proud to be part of this plunge in New Orleans. She said she feels that the bonding experience she had with members from Habitat for Humanity on the Staten Island Campus was a unique experience.
“New Orleans has a rough road ahead, and they are going to need the help of many agencies and individuals across the country,” Wycklendt said, “and I was extremely proud to be able to go down and help.”
On a large scale of what is happening, and what has happened, St. John’s made a small impact, but for the individual homeowners, the students felt that they were able to make a huge difference.