Rotaract Club Helps Rebuild in Mississippi
"The students had an opportunity to experience many different things," says Digby of the trip, which began with a bus tour of New Orleans and the devastated lower Ninth Ward. Students witnessed firsthand the damage and destruction; they saw the levees that broke during the storm and the thousands of homes that were crushed and are still in ruins.
Fanshawe's Rotaract Club volunteer team with Larry Randall, Pearlington Recovery Center (PRC) Director (back row, far right), and American volunteers
"That has to be the motivation for them to go to the bayou for the next five days and work in the heat and the bugs and the discomfort. They've got to understand that what they're doing has a huge, humane purpose," says Digby, a faculty member in Fanshawe's School of Business and Management.
The club chose the town of Pearlington because of the devastation in the area: "[There were] abandoned neighbourhoods scattered with hundreds of FEMA trailers on the front lawns of homes with no hydro, no water, no sewage, and yet the residents stay ... refusing to leave the only homes they've ever known," explains Digby.
The town was also chosen for its volunteer support and the opportunity for the club to truly contribute. The group worked alongside volunteers from across the US, constructing new houses and rebuilding those damaged in the storm. Among other tasks, the students painted, measured drywall, prepared electrical outlets and cleaned the area.
At right, Fanshawe Rotaract Club member Lilianna Sanchez (left), works with "Mr Larry," an American volunteer.
The trip was made possible by months of fundraising and soliciting donations from various sources: Fanshawe faculty and students, area Rotary Clubs, Fanshawe President Howard Rundle, and the College executive.
Rotaract Club members returned home May 3, 2008. Says Digby of the experience: "The group spent the last night together at a farewell dinner on Bourbon Street …feeling good about all the work they accomplished that week and all the new friends they met along the way."