Every January, during TCNJ’s winter break, First-Year Bonners set out for the annual class trip to New Orleans to assist with rebuild projects and learn about one of the nation’s most iconic cities. This year 25 first-year students, along with 8 upperclassmen drove four Bonner vans from the TCNJ Campus to New Orleans. Twelve years after Hurricane Katrina, there is still a great need for assistance in some of the cities most affected neighborhoods, and with the recent flooding in Baton Rouge, there is still work to be done every day.
This year, the group teamed up again with SBP (www.stbernardproject.org), a disaster relief non-profit that started working on post-Katrina recovery and now has additional sites in other disaster-impacted areas of the country. The Bonners broke up into 4 teams to spread their work around the city with 4 different projects.
The 2017 teams and sites included:
- Lamanche St.
- The team: Sam G., Ryan T., Asaiah E., Joel R., Hailey W., Maura F., Allie D.,
- Activities included, exterior painting, trim, caulking, and shelf building.
- Fortin St.
- The team: Will W., Lilly K., Lorraine R., Cyan V., Blake C., Sebastian C., Merlyn R., Isaiah T., Ariana R.
- Activities included, exterior/interior painting.
- Roch Ave
- The team: Horacio H., Terra H., Isaiah S., Taina J., Shanise C., Stef R., JC B., Clair E.
- Activities included, exterior lead removal, caulking, and painting.
- Briarwood Drive
- The team: Cori H., Emily A., Vineeth A., Jared K., Kendall E., Gianna M., Queen T.
- Activities included, mudding, priming, painting, and tile flooring
The entire group also went on a trip to Baton Rouge to aid flood victims and get started on much needed rebuilding projects. In addition to the community rebuild projects, Bonners took time to get familiar with the city through a series of activities. The group participated in a scavenger hunt throughout the French Quarter and took a tour of New Orleans, including the Garden District, Uptown, Lake Pontchartrain, and the Lower 9th Ward.
A few shared thoughts from the experience:
“I really enjoyed seeing just how much one small task can result in a bigger difference for a project. The little things I did such as painting made me realize how important every job in making a change is. I’m very thankful to be here.” – Asaiah Edwards
“New Orleans has taught me that love, hope, and giving can fix just about anything and no disaster will steal the joy from this community or dim the light and happiness it brings to those who visit. I came on this trip to help individuals in New Orleans but as it turns out the individuals ,and hope the city thrives with, are helping me!” – Estefany Rodriguez
“When Katrina hit, I was about 7 years old and I don’t really remember knowing much about what happened. It’s pretty upsetting that Katrina has been somewhat forgotten because people are obviously still struggling.” – Merlyn R.
“Knowing that a family is going to be able to come back to this city from the (small) work I put in is an amazing feeling. With this, although it is a little selfish, is that what has also been so meaningful to me while working on the house is the knowledge I am getting about home reconstruction. My dad works in construction, and being able to call him on the phone and talk with him about what I have been doing has been very special, especially when I could call today and tell him how Allie and I caulked and shimmied a door, because that was a difficult door to caulk and I am SUPER proud of us!” – Madison Rowohlt
At my site we are scraping paint off the exterior siding of a house and replacing some of the exterior siding. The house is older so the exterior paint is lead based. This means we wear papersuits and respirators. To be honest, it’s apretty sweet look.” – Claire Ehret