UNH Students Spend Spring Break Rebuilding New Orleans
By Todd Szahun, UNH Senior, PoliSci Major
April 4, 2007
A year and a half after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, the
city of New Orleans struggles to remove the debris and provide adequate
housing for the city’s residents, where the population is about half
of pre-Katrina levels. More than 120 UNH students traveled to The Big Easy
during spring break to lend a hand.
“It feels great to be able to help out here and meet other students
interested in giving up their time for a worthy cause,” said freshman
Many of the volunteers stayed in St. Bernard Parish, an area that suffered
some of the most extensive damage during Hurricane Katrina. As the eye
of the storm passed over this low-lying region it unleashed a 25 foot storm
surge that devastated the entire region and released over 1 million gallons
of mixed crude oil from a local refinery.
“It’s a sobering experience to see the extent of the damage
after so long,” said sophomore Sarah Rice who volunteered in lower
St. Plaquemines Parish. “I just hope we have an impact here and people
begin to realize that there is still a lot of work to be done.”
The students were housed in trailers, local churches, and at Camp Hope,
a former St. Bernard Parish school converted to accommodate volunteers.
Operated by Habitat for Humanity, Camp Hope is expected to host nearly
2500 students from over 80 colleges and universities across the country
during spring break.
“It is refreshing to see the growing number of community-minded
students looking for a more rewarding spring break experience,” said
Aleis Tusa, communications director for the New Orleans Area Habitat for
The main project currently being undertaken by Habitat for Humanity is
the construction of a neighborhood called Musicians’ Village. The
8-acre site, situated in New Orleans’ Upper 9th Ward will consist
of 70 single-family homes to go to displaced musicians from New Orleans
and other qualifying Habitat partner families.
Musicians’ Village is a collaboration between Harry Connick, Jr.,
Branford Marsalis, and Habitat for Humanity whose centerpiece will be the
Ellis Marsalis Center for Music,, named in honor of the patriarch of this
family of musicians. It will feature performance spaces, practice rooms,
and classrooms devoted to celebrating the music and musicians of New Orleans.
“It’s a shame that so many of people had to leave New Orleans,” said
UNH Sophomore Stuart Dias. “As a musician it is unbelievably rewarding
to be a part of bringing the people back and help maintain the legacy of
The trips were organized through UNH’s Alternative Break Challenge,
Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, and the Campus Crusade for Christ.
Several of the students are already planning to return to New Orleans
for spring break of 2008.