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ISSUE 119 VOL 15 PUBLISHED 3/24/2006

Spring relief efforts bloom

By Amy Wicks
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 24, 2006

In the next few days, over 200 students will depart on seven different St. Olaf-sponsored spring break trips. However, rather than relaxing some place sunny or hitting the ski slopes, these students have chosen to spend their breaks serving others across the country.

The largest of these trips is the Ole Spring Relief trip, which is taking 184 students to Biloxi, Miss., and New Orleans, La., The trip is being sponsored by Student Government Association (SGA), the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Habitat for Humanity, Volunteer Network and Student Congregation.

Ishanaa Rambachan ‘08, co-chair of the planning committee, said the planning for the trip began last fall.

"There was just this sort of gut reaction we had to Katrina and the lack of real help," she said.

The Ole Spring Relief group is sending 51 students along with Pete Sandberg, assistant vice president for facilities, and Bill Green, assistant dean for community life and diversity, to New Orleans, while 133 students accompanied by Bruce Benson, college pastor, and Greg Kneser, dean of students, travel to Biloxi.

The New Orleans group will work with Dillard University, a historically black school, to help restore the campus as well as the surrounding neighborhoods. Organizers hope that the trip can be the "start of a new partnership and relationship," Rambachan said.

The Biloxi group will be working with Lutheran Disaster Relief, living in a "tent city" and helping to rebuild the community. Although 90 percent of Biloxi has been cleaned up, there is still much work to be done.

The group will be helping both with reconstruction of houses and with cleaning the interiors of homes damaged by the flooding. Both groups will have "very close contact with those who were actually affected," according to Rambachan.

SGA President Thomas Rusert ‘06 said that the service trips have involved the whole St. Olaf community.

"It’s more than the 184 students that are excited about it. It’s the whole campus," he said.

"We are extremely grateful for all the support the administration has given for this effort," said Rambachan.

Each year, Habitat for Humanity sends groups of students to different sites across the country to help build homes. This year students will travel to Charleston, S.C., under the leadership of Keisha Sedlacek ‘06 and John Walters ‘08; Danville, Va., under the leadership of Siri Bream ’06 and Emily Jodock ‘07; San Antonio, Texas, under the leadership of Jessica Winslow ’07 and Kaitlin Anderson ‘07; and Mobile, Ala., under the leadership of Nikki Opperman ‘08 and Frieda von Qualen ‘08.

These groups, ranging from eight to 10 students, will help with all stages of home building.

Sleeping on church floors and working on homes for a week may not sound appealing to all, but according to Sedlacek, co-vice-president of Habitat for Humanity, it can be worthwhile.

"It’s a more fulfilling way to spend your spring break,” she said. “You’re actually doing something rather than wasting it."

FCA is sending a group of eight students led by Mackenzie Peterson ’08 to New York City for a different sort of service trip. These students will be working with the Youth Service Opportunities Project, which sets up service working directly with the homeless at food banks, soup kitchens and shelters.

According to trip organizer Sarah Butler ‘06, not only will these students have a chance to volunteer their services, but "in the process of it they also learn about the problems of homelessness in New York City."

The students will have the opportunity to understand homelessness on an individual basis.

"It’s out of a lot of people’s comfort zones," Butler said "It’s a chance to see New York in a different way than as a tourist."

Rusert mentioned how students are open to the new opportunities these trips present.

"That’s the thing about Oles – they’re always going," Rusert said. "So, instead of taking a break, they go build houses."

The Ole Spring Relief group will be keeping a blog for each site at

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