Southern RecoveryGAMBIER, Ohio (January 3, 2006) Forty-three Kenyon students have something more than vacation on their agenda for winter break. These students will be trading the comforts of home for the physically challenging and emotionally fraught work of helping with recovery efforts in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans.
During the second week of January, the Kenyon group will be one of many teams on the ground in a recovery effort coordinated by the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana. Bethany Shopland, Class of 2006, a music major from Indiana, Pennsylvania, organized the effort with the help of the College's Episcopal chaplain, Rev. Karl Stevens, Class of 1995. Students will be lodged in two churches in the region and will work from 9:00 a.m. through 3:00 p.m. each day, helping to repair homes that can be saved and salvaging items from buildings that must be demolished.
"The work itself is slimy, disgusting, and moldy," warned Stevens, who will also be making the trip south, at an organizational meeting for volunteers. But his warning did not dissuade the students, who are prepared for stark conditions.
"It will be grungy, dirty work," Shopland acknowledges. "Sometimes conditions are pretty awful, so we'll be limited to half-hour shifts."
The volunteers will be entering homes with homeowners, many of whom will be seeing their homes for the first time. The students will work, in groups of five, at the direction of the homeowners.
"Honestly, I am nervous," says Jennifer Stern, Class of 2008, a psychology major from Shaker Heights, Ohio. "Standing next to people who have had everything destroyed and seeing the disaster is going to be scary. But I am ready for that challenge. I know I am helping the cause."
For Casey Bolitho, Class of 2008, a psychology major from Zanesville, Ohio, the physical and emotional challenges are an incentive to make the trip. "I know how gratifying it is to give yourself to strangers in need," she says. "This trip is going to teach me things about myself that I would never get out of donating clothes or books or money."
"In my mind," says Bolitho," I just can't justify passing this opportunity up."