Alternative Spring Break Students Meet Clinton and Pitt in the 9th Ward – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Alternative Spring Break Students Meet Clinton and Pitt in the 9th Ward

Over spring break, 11 HWS students traveled to New Orleans, L.A. for the Colleges’ eighth service trip to the city. Shortly after arriving in New Orleans, Director of Public Service Ave Bauder took the students on a tour of the city, through the Lakeview District, the French Quarter and the 9th Ward, where actor Brad Pitt and former-President Bill Clinton were at a groundbreaking ceremony. “The day of sightseeing was nice for the students who hadn’t been there before,” says Regina Triplett ’10, for whom this was her second year volunteering in New Orleans. Organized and led by Bauder, the students worked with Providence, a low-cost, Section-8 housing project. They sprayed walls with bleach to kill mold, painted ceilings, removed left-over furniture and other miscellaneous tasks on a six-story 150-unit senior citizen building so that residents could move back in. Students attended service at Mary Queen of Vietnam Church, a Vietnamese Catholic Church presided over by Father Vien The Nguyen, who was a subject of a book read for the HWS Reader’s College course about Hurricane Katrina. After mass, Bauder and the students walked to the site of the levee breach, where they were able to get pictures with Clinton and Pitt. Bauder says that the city is still in the midst of rebuilding. “Businesses are open and cars are on the street, but there are still destroyed and vacant houses.” Father Nguyen’s church is a shining example of the solidarity that New Orleans is experiencing. “Ninety percent of the congregation has returned,” says Bauder. There are plans to rebuild a senior citizen residence next to the church, a 20-acre urban garden and individual plots for growing and selling produce to local business. “There is an incredible sense of community,” says Bauder. According to Habitat for Humanity, in St. Bernard Parish – a county of Louisiana in the Greater New Orleans area – 100 percent of the homes and commercial buildings had significant structural damage. On the fifth day in the city, students began working with the St. Bernard Project — a small, “nonprofit, grassroots organization that began rebuilding homes in August 2006 in St. Bernard Parish. The mission of the St. Bernard Project is to remove barriers for families who wish to move back into their homes in St. Bernard Parish.” The students spent the day sanding, spackling, painting and flooring. “There’s really a sense of connectedness with the families who we are helping,” says Triplett. “Some families worked with us. Some wrote notes or left scrapbooks for volunteers. I really felt like a part of the project.”