Spring Break in New OrleansGAMBIER, Ohio (April 6, 2007) Another busload of volunteers from Kenyon-fifty-four students, faculty, and staff-has returned from a weeklong service trip to New Orleans, over the last week of spring break. Despite the exhausting work (and at least one black eye), the crew bonded, forging new friendships that cross boundaries of class year, concentration, and geography. Although some, including group leaders Matt Huber, Class of 2008, and Hannah Szlyk and Dan Caplan, both Class of 2009, had volunteered before, most had not.
Daniel Gajewski, Class of 2009, from Brunswick, Ohio, decided to go because "I'm a big guy and felt I could help out with moving things." Gajewski, who had not been on a service trip before, expected to see "a war zone." He would definitely do it again and recommends the experience to others. "It's very rewarding work-and they need all the help they can get."
Although there are still houses that have not been touched since the flood, there are hopeful signs. The Kenyon crew concentrated on gutting houses, first emptying them of all contents, then removing drywall, insulation, and ceilings. But other volunteers are now hanging drywall, helping to rebuild already-gutted houses. The Kenyon group also helped to clear a two-mile walking path in City Park, one of the largest urban parks in the country, and to plant saplings beside the trail. Restoring the public park's facilities is as crucial to the city's overall healing process as gutting a single house is to the homeowner.
Even in the Lower Ninth Ward, there is evidence of rebirth. Musician's Village, a grouping of houses built by Habitat for Humanity with support from Branford and Ellis Marsalis and Harry Connick Jr., offers a pastel rainbow of brand-new homes, a concrete expression of faith and hope in the midst of so much devastation.
Highlights of the Kenyon trip included a "death and destruction" tour led by Kenyon alumna Renée Peck, Class of 1975, who now works for the Times-Picayune. She and her husband, Stewart Peck, Class of 1974, also invited the entire crew to their rebuilt home one night, providing jambalaya for all.
Plans are already underway to coordinate volunteers who want to work in New Orleans over the summer, continuing to help the city rebuild.