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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Students travel to New Orleans

Published: August 31, 2007
Section: News

Nine students from Brandeis and Tufts University traveled to New Orleans this summer to support people still recovering from the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina two years ago. They are part of National Collegiate Volunteers (NCV), a new not-for-profit organization created by Brandeis and Tufts University students which sends college students to disaster sites to help victims and lead humanitarian efforts. NCV Vice President Noah Kaplan 08, Anastazyia Vareschi 09, Gaurav Gharti-Chhetri 10, and six Tufts students left for New Orleans on August 15 for the week-long trip.

NCVs goal is to [train] the next generation of pioneers in the field of humanitarian aid and social justice, according to the organizations website.

Kaplan explained, Brandeis and Tufts have similar aims to help better this world through active citizenship, so this organization is perfect for both of them.

One of the most significant aspects of NCV is that participation in the program costs the students no money.

Community service should be free, said Kaplan. Some programs cost a lot of money, but we dont believe in that approach because it filters out recruits. Students might want to help out, but if it costs them $3,000 and theyre already struggling financially, they wont be able to.

In order to keep the program free-of-charge for students, NCV depends on donations from sponsors. The New Orleans project received donations from Hillel at Tufts University, Tisch College at Tufts, Institute of Global Leadership at Tufts, and congregates from the Society for the Advancement of Judaism.

The NCVs pilot program, No Barriers: New Orleans, was planned in conjunction with the National Relief Network, which arranged for transportation, food, shelter, and equipment as well as oversaw the students progress. Every day of the trip, different students were responsible for directing the groups work, which involved rebuilding houses, community centers and recreation facilities, and clearing debris. At night, the students shared their experiences on overcoming new challenges.

During their time in New Orleans, the students heard from a number of guest speakers, including Tulane University Professors Richard Culbertson and Tony Keck, one of the captains of the New Orleans Police Department, and representatives from Health Services Management Department.

Another speaker was Tonia Pence, a case manager for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), an organization whose aim is to recreate the lives of people displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

The students also met Steven Bingler, the founder and President of Concordia, the community-based planning and design firm in charge of redeveloping New Orleans. Bingler wants to create town centers in many low-elevation neighborhoods such as Lakeview and the Lower Ninth Ward, the two neighborhoods that need the most attention. The town centers will feature a school, security department, and health center. In the event of a hurricane or storm, people can flock to the center to seek refuge and have their basic needs met. The center will be built on higher ground, giving it a better chance of withstanding a flood.

This fall, NCV is designing a follow-up project. The students will be working with UMCOR as well as helping find displaced people in Boston through a Tufts professor who can locate them.

Were very excited about New Orleans future, said Kaplan. Now that a new plan has been created and funding can come in, the redevelopment should start progressing at a faster rate. Were very optimistic about it, although Washington is still negligent. The Bush administration handled its duties in a disastrous manner;

were hoping that a new administration will take this more seriously.