By Kristina Colyer
University of Nevada, Reno
Student United Way President
Hello from the University of Nevada, Reno! I returned from volunteering in New Orleans about two weeks ago, but the memories of Alternative Spring Break spent with St. Bernard Project are fresh in my mind. I think I can speak for our whole group when I say we wish we were still there.
I am the president of a service and outreach club on campus called Student United Way, which is part of United Way of America. This spring break, I was the team leader for our Nevada group of 9 people in New Orleans. Our group stayed at Camp Hope, and our task was to mud an opportunity housing project on Mehle Street, and boy did we do just that.
It turns out that not only did our team rock at mudding, but we really enjoyed it. We realized we were mudding nerds when our team got excited about pre-made mud after two days of mixing our own. Our team spent five days mudding, laughing and helping a family move into a brand new home. By the end of each day we were covered in dust and mud and loved every second of it.
Although signs of rebuilding and rebirth were everywhere in St. Bernard Parish and New Orleans, I still couldn’t believe the amount of empty lots that are still there. Empty lots dyed a pinkish-red to indicate no threat of mold were everywhere in the parish, and the streets were quiet. It is unfortunate that so many people across the country don’t know about the extent of the remaining damage from Hurricane Katrina. Five years is long enough to forget Katrina ever happened. That’s why I believe so strongly in service trips like this one and organizations like St. Bernard Project. It opened our eyes to a world outside of our own lives and communities.
One of the highlights of the trip was meeting the residents. The appreciation and warm welcome we received from them was incredible. Everyone there has a story and they made our experiences and our work real. Being from Nevada, I cannot fathom experiencing a hurricane let alone one like Katrina. Coming home, my fellow students think I’m crazy for wanting to volunteer during my spring break, when truth is I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend it.
Working with St. Bernard Project this year made our trip worthwhile. The people we met and worked with were amazing and made it unforgettable. SBP made it easy to volunteer, as volunteerism should be. I loved learning about the organization and the work their team does. Thank you St. Bernard Project and we will see you next year!