On one day in April, Saga felt like Mardi Gras as HWS Responds hosted NOLA Night.
In tribute to the city of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, the room was decorated in Mardi Gras-style. Local cuisine, including spoon bread, gumbo soup, fried chicken, bananas Foster, Key lime pie, and red velvet cake, was served to a background of music played by New Orleans-based artists.
However, the evening represented far more than simple festivities — as part of a Post-Katrina College Summit, it served to promote awareness of the continued efforts to rebuild the city.
The Post-Katrina College Summit is a national organization of campuses making an effort to raise awareness of the Gulf Coast crisis and foster support for new legislation creating jobs that will let New Orleans residents help rebuild their community.
Jacqui Sands ’09, as the bonner leader for HWS' Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning, has traveled to New Orleans twice to help with cleanup efforts. “It's easy to look at Bourbon Street and think that it's fine, but in the Ninth Ward there are still houses that are tarped, that haven't been touched. There's no new backing for the cleanup events, and it's really disheartening.”
Sands visited New Orleans in March of 2007, then again in January of 2008. She was startled to see that not much had changed. “In about a year between my visits, seeing barely any changes was really sad.”
Representatives from HWS Responds were in attendance to share information about their service trips, the efforts to rebuild New Orleans, and the post-Katrina college summit. Students also had the opportunity to sign a petition supporting the Gulf Coast Civic Works bill.
“It's a kick-off to events throughout the second half of April,” says Sands, who organized this event for its second incarnation. “We're going to do some more of this kind of work at the Peace festival next week.”
The Peace Festival featured a series of tables where the HWS Responds group continued to raise awareness and collect signatures.
HWS Responds is the Colleges' effort to aid New Orleans after the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina. Led by the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning, the organization both raises money and provides help for relief agencies. HWS Responds is responsible for raising more than $36,000 since the disaster occurred, as well as sending students to New Orleans for cleanup efforts during school breaks. It's a part of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning.