Fifteen students from the University of Colorado at Boulder will help repair a New Orleans shelter for victims of domestic violence as part of several alternative spring break volunteer projects during the week of March 27-31.
Crescent House, a shelter for women and children that sustained wind and flood damage from Hurricane Katrina, will host the CU-Boulder students. The students will drive from Boulder to New Orleans March 24 and will arrive back in Boulder on April 2 just before classes resume.
Crescent House has been closed since the hurricane and CU-Boulder students will stay there while they work to repair the shelter. The volunteers will be painting, building fences and landscaping as well as participating in activities with children served by the shelter, according to Anna Domenico, director of CU-Boulder's Volunteer Clearing House.
"Many students were affected by the news coverage of Hurricane Katrina," Domenico said. "They saw so much need after the hurricane that was not being met. That motivated a lot of students this year."
Domenico said the group of students heading to New Orleans had to be patient because initially there weren't any organizations that could safely host volunteers. Alternative volunteer spring break trips are normally planned in August and September, she said.
"The students leading this project had to be flexible with the planning process, but they felt like it was important and they wanted to send a group down to show that people in Colorado cared," Domenico said. "This is a unique project, and the students have worked very hard to make it happen."
Sophomore Julie Hayes and junior Brie Sampson are the trip's two student-coordinators. Friends who have already been to New Orleans told Hayes that the damage is much worse than they had imagined.
"I think the service work will be good, but I think seeing the devastation is going to have an impact," Hayes said. "We're really looking forward to talking with the locals. I think that's going to be a really important part of the whole thing."
Another group of CU-Boulder students will volunteer at New Mexico's Shiprock Home for Women and Children during spring break. Shiprock is a Navajo reservation shelter for survivors of domestic violence, and 2006 will be the third year in a row that CU-Boulder students have volunteered there. A third group is headed to the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch in Montana, which serves troubled youth and their families.
CU-Boulder's Volunteer Clearing House is a student group that has been organizing student projects year-round since 1965. For spring break activities, the Volunteer Clearing House partners with the national Alternative Spring Breaks organization. Domenico said 30 to 60 CU-Boulder students from varied backgrounds participate in alternative spring break trips every year.
"One of the best aspects of participating is the lasting relationships that are formed with other students as well as the connection to a community outside of Boulder," Domenico said. "Alternative breaks give students a chance to interact with and understand people and communities that they may never have otherwise come across."