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ISSUE 121 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 4/11/2008

Relief trips serve

By Peter Meng
Staff Writer

Friday, April 11, 2008

Rather than heading home and spending Easter with their families, 150 St. Olaf students chose to devote their break to volunteering and rebuilding homes for families in need.

Students and faculty traveled to Biloxi, Mississippi during the third annual Ole Spring Relief trip. This trip also marked the second time Ole Spring Relief had gone to a Biloxi. Staying under the auspices of Lutheran Disaster Response, members from the group continued to help with hurricane relief efforts along the Gulf Coast.

Instead of sleeping in, volunteers awoke at 5:40 each morning; just in time for a 6 a.m. breakfast.

Throughout the day, volunteers participated in a wide variety of activities including demolishing damaged homes, removing roadside debris, painting and dry walling new homes and processing paperwork for victims.

Relief coordinator Victor Wong '08 mentioned, "I was very pleased with the positive attitudes and willingness to work regardless of what it entailed. People were very patient and supportive of one another; all in all, it was an amazing time."

Volunteering in areas of devastation was a life changing opportunity for many students. Samantha Sickbert '11 remarked, "OSR3 was an amazing experience. Being able to see the hurricane devastation first hand was remarkable. Working side by side with fellow Oles to create a better environment and future for Biloxi is a memory that will last with me a lifetime."

Karen Bieraugel '11 agreed. "Ole Spring Relief was an amazing way to spend my spring break. It was so enjoyable to serve others and make new friends on the trip. I'm definitely doing it again," she said.

After the day's work had been completed, several short excursions were taken to the beach. At night, volunteers were given an opportunity to make smores while relaxing by a bonfire. The students also hosted their 3rd annual talent show, included volunteers from Wisconsin and New Jersey.

On Easter, volunteers had the opportunity to attend devotions and church services.

Several stops were made along the way to Biloxi in Iowa City, St. Louis, Memphis and New Orleans. Compared to previous years, volunteers were given additional free time and flexibility to socialize outside camp. Flexibility was also made evident in the work assignments.

The efforts made by Oles did not go unnoticed. Local citizens and media outlets publicized and thanked everyone for their hard work. "On my site alone we were interviewed by two TV stations and featured in at least two newspapers. People stopped by to thank us and provide us with snacks," Wong said.

Despite being unable to spend time with families, volunteering activities create memories that will last a lifetime. "Instead of just being able to tell our children facts we heard about the storm, we can say that we dedicated our time and energy into directly rebuilding the damaged communities. The stories we have will last a lifetime," Wong said.

Members of St. Olaf Habitat for Humanity also spent their spring break building and rehabilitating homes for families in need.

Three groups of 10 students traveled to Abilene, Texas; Casper, Wyoming; and St. Joseph, Mo. Group members typically spent eight hours a day, Monday through Friday building houses. Friday afternoons were sometimes utilized for leisurely activities away from the construction site.

Volunteer Sarah Lebens '10 mentioned, "In Texas, we put siding on the house, put up ceilings in the open air garage, caulked and painted."

On their free day, volunteers traveled to Dallas and Fort Worth to see the JFK Museum and Stockyards.

Donations of money, building materials and volunteer labor allow Habitat for Humanity to build and remodel homes for low-income families. Homes are then sold to families at no profit and financed with affordable loans. Income from the loans are reinvested and used to build additional houses.

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