MSA to spend Easter holiday volunteering in New Orleans

by Ashley GressStaff Writer

Over a year and a half ago, America watched in shock and horror while Hurricanes Katrina and Rita ravaged New Orleans. The city had been dealt a tremendous blow with the loss of life, property and community.

Volunteers around the U.S. have done their part to try and help the devastated city, including Simpson College. In the last year, Simpson students and faculty have donated money and sent students on service trips to offer support and help to the community.

This Easter weekend, another group of Simpson students will be going to New Orleans to assist in the cleanup of the area. Ten students from the Multicultural Student Alliance will be leaving Simpson to join Common Ground, an organization that is involved in restoring New Orleans.

“We are working with Common Ground, which is a community-based program in the ninth ward of New Orleans,” junior Michelle Boyd said. “We are going to help with rebuilding projects, such as painting, planting flowers and other things.”

Common Ground’s mission is to provide short-term relief for victims of hurricane disasters in the gulf coast region and long-term support in rebuilding the communities affected in the New Orleans area.

Common Ground is a community-initiated volunteer organization offering assistance, mutual aid and support. The work gives hope to communities by working with them, providing for their immediate needs and emphasizes people working together to rebuild their lives in sustainable ways.

MSA had little time to plan for the trip, but that didn’t deter the students’ desire to head south and help as much as possible.

“The trip was actually thrown together really quickly,” Boyd said. “We knew we wanted to take a service trip to New Orleans, so we asked Lily [Initiative] to grant us funds to drive down there. Lily granted us $500 for gas, and Common Ground provides our food and lodging for free, so we don’t have to pay for anything.”

MSA has been going around to local businesses asking for monetary donations or items that are needed by the people in New Orleans. They are also doing a coin drive where they ask people for their spare change.

MSA has been fundraising not only on campus, but also in Indianola and Des Moines in hopes of making a large donation from campus and the surrounding area.

“I wanted to help ever since I saw it on the news, and this is a great opportunity to go down there and help out, especially since it is free,” junior Brittani McMichael said.

The disasterous effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita echoed across the country. For people who do not live in New Orleans and the surrounding areas, it seems like the disaster is over, but for the people of New Orleans, the struggle still continues everyday. It is important for not only Simpson students, but also everyone to remember the devastation of the hurricanes continues.

“I just feel that volunteering is instilled in me,” junior Kahara Hunafa said. “I feel obliged as a citizen. My dad actually passed away in Katrina, and I feel I owe it to my family to go down there and represent.”