New Orleans— Students of Hilbert College through Young Life, a non- denominational Christian ministry group, spent their spring break on a service mission trip, helping the people of New Orleans. The group of eleven was led by Jake Peters, the Assistant Director of Residence Life at HIlbert College. The students volunteered through the Saint Bernard Project, an organization that was set up in response to Hurricane Katrina, to help victims. The clients of the Saint Bernard project are usually people with a lower income, many of whom had been scammed out of initial relief and rebuilding efforts, people still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Katrina.
The trip started by attending a black Baptist church in the lower ninth ward, one of the worst affected areas of Hurricane Katrina. There was a lot of passion at the service, but there was definitely a sense of community. The preacher talked about stepping up when called upon and spreading the faith the question, “do I have a Joshua in the house”, was met with a robust “Amen”. These people that had endured so much expressed a great sense of joy by being together and sharing their faith, especially through their love of singing.
Hilbert students worked at three work sites during their service learning trip, operating from the Mustard Seed Ministry House, a house that functioned similar to a hostel. The first site was the building of operations for the Saint Bernard Project organization, the job was to sand and paint the walls. The room will be renovated in order to rent out to a different non-profit group, which would bring down operating costs and ultimately allow for more funding to go to helping the people of New Orleans.
The next site was cleaning up roof tiles and garbage in a person’s backyard, the damage coming from the recent tornado that swept through the area. Driving to the site, the students saw the devastating effects from the tornado first hand, entire roofs had been removed from people’s homes and many doors were denoting the deaths that had resulted from the tornado.
The last work site was a Catholic middle school that had been submerged due to Hurricane Katrina and had not been opened since. The water level was still visible by the water marks on the door entering the school. While the lower level is currently being used for meetings, the upper level, which functioned as the school had not been touched, it was like viewing a snapshot in history. The chalkboards had not been erased, still showing some drawings, lessons and the last date that school was in session. After speaking with the deacon of the church it became clear, “ This school has been closed for eleven years and will not reopen, it’s a miracle that the bottom floor can be used, but this where we can find hope and hopefully be a light to the people.”
No matter where the Hilbert students worked, the locals of New Orleans were tough resilient and optimistic for the future. They found hope in many small victories and acts, and were greatly appreciated for the small acts of service that the Hilbert Students were able to provide.