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Campus News

Disaster relief turned disastrous, students continued to give it their all

Miles Kovarik, staff writer

Fall Break service trips traveled to Cumberland Island, GA, New Orleans, LA, Alexander, NC, and War, WV. Wilson students also worked on the Appalachian Trail in Western North Carolina and the Cumberland Trail near Chattanooga, TN. Was the cost of long drives, foreign kitchens, and long workdays worth the results?
Most of the trips went according to plan.

David Sluder is the Mountain Housing Organization leader who worked with Warren Wilson students over Fall Break. In a phone interview, David Sluder explained how the MHO is a non-profit that assists low income or handicapped folks. Sluder voiced his approval of the work that Wilson students accomplished for his organization.

“It was definitely a positive experience,” Sluder said. “I always enjoy Warren Wilson student’s hard work. Individuals on the trip were all willing and enthusiastic to learn and provide an important means to people getting out of their house.”

Chloe Stuber was the student leader for the Fall Break service trip with MHO. Stuber explained that Wilson volunteers built two porches in Alexander, NC and sub-flooring for a house in Black Mountain. She recounted how they intended to build walls in Black Mountain, but they were rained out.
The entire trip included about 28 hours worth of service work for the Wilson team. Some of the tools that the Wilson volunteers got to use included jigsaws, circular saws, handsaws, power drills, nail guns and hammers.

This group of students worked at the Jewish Food festival on Sunday before they started their work at the MHO. They ended up working for two organizations, with MHO and the Jewish Community Center (Sponsors the Jewish Food festival).

The crew encountered one surprise during the trip.

“Last year the same service trip got to sleep at a lake house, and this year we had to sleep on a hard floor,” Stuber said.

Nonetheless, Stuber explained that her crew had fun and enjoyed their work.

Fall Break trips that went out this semester were mostly a success.

The New Orleans break trip was not as successful as planned.
Still, according to some of the participants on the New Orleans trip, Wilson students managed positive relations with most of the sites to which they traveled.

“The leadership could have been better because instead of planning well, we bounced around with groups that (Service Learning Volunteer) Janet Jones knew,” junior Matt Gordon said.

Gordon was surprised that the planning did not work because the leaders of the trip had plenty of time to communicate with organizations. Gordon commented, “There were parts that made the trip worth going, but it just was not a service trip.”

Jones was one of the staff leaders on the trip and was not in during the week to respond to questions about the break trip.

Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Siti Kusujiarti, the other staff leader, explained what happened during the New Orleans trip.

“There was a Sociology course for this service trip called Disaster and Society which covered topics on Katrina and included guest lecturers,” Dr. Kusujiarti said. “We served with several local organizations: In Slidell we worked on a house (siding and repainting a house) in the lower ninth ward we worked with the Manna food bank and with Common Ground (a local organization). At the Restoration Embassy, where we stayed, the Wilson group put on doors and helped to clean up the church.”

Kusujiarti discussed the different forms of service can be on a trip. “We need to take a look at how we define service,” she said. “Interacting with people and having flexibility in the work schedule are broader notions of service; essentially, yes, we were missing the physical aspect of the service but there are other ways to serve.”

According to sophomore Philip Hamilton, a student leader on the trip, the trip to New Orleans consisted of thirteen students and two staff members. “No one thing went wrong, but a series of miscommunications occurred,” he said.

In response to the frustrations students felt about the amount of work on the trip, Hamilton replied, “There was a lack of work for the students, but the work we did have to do meant a lot in the big picture of all of the progress going on in New Orleans. New Orleans is in a new stage of rebuilding, and therefore it is a different kind of work than just gutting housing.”

These are just two examples of the service trips that went out over Fall Break. If you have an experience you would like to share with the Wilson community good or bad about your service trip you can send in a story 500 words or less to the Echo at echo@warren-wilson.edu.

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