Students Give Their Time to Help Others

Two separate groups of Trinity students spent spring break helping to clear debris and rebuild homes in New Orleans while another, much larger contingent braved a cold overnight drizzle to participate in the non-stop, 18-hour Relay for Life, which was held April 7 and 8 on the track at Jessee/Miller Field. It was the first time the College has hosted the American Cancer Society event.

Helping in New Orleans


30 students traveled by bus to New Orleans as part of an effort by the campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity to aid in the reconstruction of the city in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Made possible through a campus-wide fundraising effort as well as contributions from the Student Government Association and the President’s Office, the students also paid a portion of the cost out of their own pockets. While in New Orleans members of the group underwent orientation at Loyola University and slept on the floor of a church throughout the course of their stay.

Coordinated by Margot Koch ’06, in cooperation with the Office of Community Service and Civic Engagement, the Habitat for Humanity effort continued a tradition of alternative spring break programs. The group also went to New Orleans in 2004, pre-Katrina and Rita, although no one from that trip was involved in this year’s effort. “We were all affected by the incredible damage we saw,” says Koch. “Smashed cars and children’s toys littered the streets, and the Lower Ninth Ward was still deserted. The trip took a lot of planning and had its share of difficulties, but it was 100 percent worth it. We’re all proud that we got to help.”

Another 15 students took part in an unrelated effort in New Orleans in association with the Common Ground Collective, a grass-roots, volunteer organization that provides short-term relief for hurricane victims in the Gulf Coast region and long-term support in rebuilding efforts. The Trinity students who volunteered with Common Ground, organized by Alex Henry ’07 and Peter Laszlo ’06, each found her or his own way to New Orleans and reconnected once they were there.

“The experience was invaluable to me because it opened my eyes to a different social reality than the one I had seen in New England,” explains Laszlo, a Hungarian exchange student who also spent time volunteering in New Orleans during winter break. “I am convinced that the help we provided in solidarity with the residents meant an awful lot to them. It was an incredible contribution toward restoring hope in the poorest parts of the city.”

Prior to the trip, the students launched a fundraising effort, with support from the Dean of Students Office and the Office of Campus Life, and, like the Habitat group, were able to offset some of their expenses. Sleeping in “what used to be a church,” as Henry described it, in the Ninth Ward, the group worked on a variety of projects—including removing rotted walls and flooring from houses, an elementary school, and a day-care center. “After Katrina hit, many of us felt that there had to be something we could do to help,” says Henry. “And the best way to do that was to go down there.  The really shocking thing was how little has been done in the last eight months. The Lower Ninth Ward looks like the flood might have hit last week.”

Walking to Cure Cancer

Approximately 400 students participated in the Relay for Life event, which began on Friday afternoon and ended Saturday morning. Designed to celebrate survivors and raise money for research and programs of the American Cancer Society, speakers at the event included Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, Associate Dean of Students Ann Reuman, Amanda Garbatini ’09 (a six-time cancer survivor), and Professor of Religion and International Studies Elli Findly. Many students dedicated their efforts to the memory of Professor of English Fred Pfeil, who lost his battle with cancer last fall. Participants shattered their original fundraising goal of $25,000 by raising more than $66,000. That accomplishment makes it the College’s largest-ever student fundraising effort and among the top five Relay totals in New England.       


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