Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Students give time over Spring Break to assist hurricane victims in Louisiana

By Courtney Westlake

Students with UIS’ Alternative Spring Break and Habitat for Humanity student organizations spent their spring breaks not only soaking up the sun in the south but also assisting Hurricane Katrina victims.

Twenty-four students and two supervisors made the trip to Mandeville, Louisiana to build homes in the southeast Louisiana area.

“We wanted to give back to them since they have been the area of the state that was really affected,” said Jaleesa Earthely, treasurer of the Alternative Spring Break organization. “We wanted to help them get back on their feet.”

“And we wanted to go somewhere hot,” she laughed.

Mandeville is about 30 to 40 minutes outside of New Orleans, and the population has greatly increased since Katrina as New Orleans residents moved more north, said Zach Berillo, another student on the trip.

The UIS group teamed up with a group of students from Wisconsin to work in a section called Carterville, which is an area of Habitat houses.

“We worked on three houses; the framework was already down, and we got to build up the structure,” Berillo said. “And later on, we got to look at some other Habitat houses whose structures were already up, and they were putting up drywall.”

Last year, Berillo accompanied the UIS Habitat for Humanity organization to Sioux Falls, South Dakota and said he enjoyed working outside this year in the nicer weather.

“It felt good because this year we got to be outside building, and I felt like we got to accomplish more,” he said. “We could definitely see how far we came through the building.”

This was the first trip planned by Alternative Spring Break at UIS and the group hopes to continue volunteering over Spring Break in the years to come. The first year was a great experience, Earthely said.

“Hopefully we’ll do it next year and probably go somewhere different,” she said. “The people were very friendly in Louisiana. They knew what we were coming down for, and they said ‘thank you so much’ and were really appreciative.”

Berillo encouraged other individuals or groups to consider helping out in the area affected by Hurricane Katrina.

“It was several years ago, and people don’t think about it as much anymore, but they still need a lot of help down there with rebuilding the areas,” he said.

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