Tech Students Spend Break Doing Hurricane Relief
Posted December 15, 2005 | Atlanta, GA
As many Americans take pains to complete their last-minute holiday shopping, a group of Georgia Tech students will be helping people whose homes were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina to rebuild their lives. It's the latest in a series of efforts by the students, faculty and staff of Georgia Tech to help those who were displaced by this season's storms.
On Sunday morning, December 18, 46 Georgia Tech students and three staff members will head to Mobile, AL, for a five-day trip to help residents clean up their flood damaged homes.
"We will be working in an area that was flooded by creeks as a result of the storm surge," said Sarah Brackmann, assistant director of student involvement for the Office of Community Service (OCS). "We'll be tearing sheetrock out of houses and cleaning up mold."
Civil engineering student and president of the Tech chapter of Engineering Students Without Borders Angharad Pagnon said that her group and the OCS began contacting government agencies and non-profit organizations just after Katrina hit to find the best way to provide aid. They were told there was a need on the outskirts of the damaged areas. They came in contact with an organization called Volunteer Mobile, and it was clear they needed the students' help, said Pagnon.
"This is an area that has been overlooked, so far," said Brackmann. "These are people who received funds from FEMA, but the funds didn't cover everything."
Brackmann said students will be matched with their jobs for things like roofing, drywall and painting based on their skill level. "A lot of the work we do will be flexible, as needed," she said.
To help prepare students for the experience, the Georgia Tech Research Institute held an orientation for student volunteers. They showed them photographs of the area and taught them about the potential health and safety hazards they may encounter on the site.
In addition to raising more than $50,000 for relief efforts, students and the Institute have responded to the needs of the Gulf Coast in a myriad of ways. Shortly after Katrina, Tech provided food and shelter to 275 student evacuees from Tulane University. Volunteers from Tech helped many of them get to their hometowns and assisted others who needed help finding housing in Atlanta.
Georgia Tech also opened the Coliseum for the Red Cross to use as a temporary shelter. Several volunteers from campus coordinated activities for the children at the shelter, while trained caseworkers volunteered their time to help evacuees obtain needed resources. Members of the Christian Campus Fellowship (CCF) helped provide meals to the evacuees at the shelter.
During the fall break, the Tech chapter of CCF organized a relief trip that delivered 225 student volunteers to four locations along the Gulf Coast. The organization worked with Tech's Student Health Services to provide tetanus shots for student volunteers, and the Counseling Center to provide orientation sessions.
Even though it's been months since the storms hit, Brackmann said the need for relief is ongoing. "There's still going to be a lot of need for the future. We want to do future trips over the spring and summer. That will be when we can really get to rebuilding the infrastructure in the affected areas."