While many students see spring break as a time to take a vacation from their studies, 11 Northern students will be traveling down to Louisiana to help a family build their home from the ground up.
Members of Chi Alpha Campus Ministry and NMU’s Service to Go will be driving 20 hours to Bogalusa, La., a town 30 minutes northeast of New Orleans. Between Feb. 27 and March 7, the two groups will work with Habitat for Humanity in restoring a town that was devastated by the 2005 hurricane.
Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst storms of the 2005 season, was responsible for $81 million in damages all along the Gulf Coast, with a death toll of over 1,500 in Louisiana alone.
Students will be helping to rebuild homes that were devastated by rain and tornado damage.
“There is still a lot of devastation left from the hurricanes of 2005,” said Deborah Heino, faculty advisor for both the Chi Alpha Student Ministry and NMU’s Service to Go program. “Spring break may be known for partying, but a lot of people don’t realize that so many students really do want to serve, and many of them give their time and money to do so.”
In addition to weather damage, many former New Orleans residents have migrated to Bogalusa since 2005, causing an even greater need for homes.
Each student is paying $300 to go on the trip. This covers transportation, meals and dormitory-style housing for the week.
“I feel it’s very important that we stay connected with the residents in the Gulf Coast because there is so much devastation. There is still so much to do,” said Heino.
This will be the sixth time members of Chi Alpha Campus Ministry have gone on this kind of a spring break trip, and a first for NMU’s Service to Go, a new organization on campus centered around community and nationwide service. This group, born out of an extension of Chi Alpha, was set up to allow students with no religious affiliation to participate in service without feeling uncomfortable.
“For many of these students, this is going to be a culture shock,” said Heino, addressing the fact that this will be the first visit to Louisiana for many on the trip. “I’m hoping that each of these students can grow, and can come away realizing that there is still a lot of connecting to be done.”
Heino also said she hopes that students will be able to take what they learn on the trip and connect it to their studies when they return.
Michelle Schmitz, a senior graphic design student and a member of NMU’s Service to Go, will be working on her senior art project while in Louisiana.
“I’m doing my project to open the eyes of people up here (in Marquette),” Schmitz said. “Down there, they’re still rebuilding, and since it’s not portrayed in the news anymore, people don’t think about it. I hope to come back with a greater sense of myself and to give back to not only the people of Louisiana, but the people of Marquette.”
Schmitz will also be keeping a blog of the experience, which can be found at nmuboga2009.blogspot.com. In addition to helping others, both the students and faculty involved in the trip hope to gain experience that they can use when they return home.
“Studies have proven that when students serve others and step outside their ‘me zone,’ they come back as more well-rounded individuals,” Heino said. “Students come back more focused by their connection with the world, and it shows here on campus.”