Katrina relief trip planned for J-term

By Michael Grove

Hurricane Katrina cut a swath of destruction unlike anything else our generation has experienced, leaving in its wake massive property damage and incalculable harm to human life. But Katrina also gave rise to a sizable force of volunteers who cannot ignore the suffering the hurricane has left behind. Over the course of the approaching winter break, a group of Macalester students will join their cause. Twenty-two Macalester students and eight faculty members will head to Gulfport, Miss. from Jan. 12 to Jan. 21, to help the relief effort. Working with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, an international relief group, Macalester students and faculty will assist in the clean up and reconstruction effort.

Plans for this trip have been in progress since the hurricane struck in early October, but issues with time and organization in the disaster areas presented difficulties. Some Macalester students may recall a brief attempt to mount a smaller relief effort over Fall Break, a plan that never came to fruition.

“There was such devastation, and so little infrastructure, and it’s still really difficult for individuals now to go and be really useful, so we started to look at different organizations,” Community Partnerships Coordinator Nadja Hogg said. “[All of the organizations] are doing fabulous work, but they weren’t a great match for our timeline and our college students. A lot of them required time commitments that weren’t feasible for college students.”

The trip, while focused on relief and rebuilding infrastructure, also holds goals of growth for the students involved.

“It’s important to know we’re going down there in small learning groups,” Hogg said. “We didn’t just want to take a train full of people and have them go, and do their work and come back and not have a lot of support or reflection.”

The hope is not only to accomplish relief-centered goals, but also to help students grow as members of a community and understand the history and context of the community they visit.

Students who can’t go on the trip but still want to help are encouraged to attend an all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinner at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 13 in Kagin Ballroom. Tickets for the event cost $5, and proceeds will go toward aiding the relief effort in Gulfport.