By: Ben Anderson
Although most Warren Wilson College students weren’t directly affected by the hurricanes that hit the Gulf Coast, news of the storms’ destruction has been ingrained in the minds of many. So many, in fact, that twice as many students sought to participate in Warren Wilson fall-break trips to the ravaged region as there are spaces for.
As it is, 35 students will be traveling in four groups in mid-October to storm-damaged areas in southern Louisiana, to the bayous and lowcountry south of New Orleans. Each group will engage in extensive cleanup operations in areas where houses and other structures have sustained major water and wind damage. Their work will be facilitated by Southern Mutual Help Association, a New Iberia-based nonprofit with ecumenical ties across many rural parishes.
Before departing, students will attend training sessions sponsored by the college’s social work department. They also will gather tools and supplies before leaving, and will take the gear required to live in fairly primitive conditions during the weeklong trips.
Nearly 70 students – of a student body of 830 – had entered a participation lottery set up by the college’s service-learning office. The office is raising funds to defray the cost of the trips so that the students selected do not have to pay expenses out of pocket.
“We will not be putting any of our volunteers in harm’s way,” said Franklin Tate, WWC service-learning acting director. “And we’re confident that conditions along the coast have stabilized enough for our work to be timely and significant. Several college staff members also have signed on as leaders, and we thank them too for their participation.”
Each group will leave for the Gulf Coast by Oct. 15 and return by Oct. 22. The four groups also will organize a community forum upon their return.
The 45-year-old service-learning program at Warren Wilson College requires each undergraduate student to work a minimum of 100 service hours over four years. Warren Wilson students give more than 20,000 hours of service to community each academic year.