1/30/2019 Peter Durantine

In the Big Easy, F&M Students Fix Houses Over Break

Thirteen years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, work to restore buildings and homes that were in its path continues. During winter break, 25 students and staff with Franklin & Marshall College’s Catastrophic Relief Alliance traveled south to help citizens of the Big Easy.

For CRA, January's trip was the fifth visit to the Crescent City, and the first since 2008 that the students worked exclusively in the hard-hit Lower Ninth Ward, said Andy Gulati, an associate librarian for the sciences and CRA adviser. An area of considerable poverty before Katrina, the Lower Ninth has Lowernine.org and other disaster relief organizations guiding volunteer groups like CRA.  

“Over our week of work, the students and staff worked at four homes, where we did roofing, siding, framing, and building awnings and stairs,” Gulati said. “We were fortunate to meet the homeowners we aided, and listen to their stories as we worked side-by-side. It can be so satisfying to get to know those you help, and to know that perhaps you made some measurable improvements to make their lives more comfortable.”

This year’s group of students was the largest CRA has ever fielded. When they weren’t rebuilding, they visited the city’s French Quarter, listened to jazz, strolled the gardens and parks, browsed  art galleries, and enjoyed coffee and beignets at Café du Monde.

  • Seniors Soprina Guarneri, Katelin Dao and Luke Groff prepare an old roof for new shingles. Seniors Soprina Guarneri, Katelin Dao and Luke Groff prepare an old roof for new shingles. Image Credit: Andy Gulati
  • Junior Lydia Wolfe and first-years Kathy Breczinski and Lowernine.org staff member measure twice, cut once. Junior Lydia Wolfe and first-years Kathy Breczinski and Lowernine.org staff member measure twice, cut once. Image Credit: Arden Brady ’22
  • Most of the CRA crew worked at a full house rebuild. Standing on porch: sophomore Kim Fermano; juniors Ahmed Barakat, Angelo Martin and Aiden Kenny; senior Brett Schmieder; a Cornell University student; and the homeowner. Seated at stairs, l-r going down:  another Cornell student; Lowernine.org staff members; seniors Luke Groff, Kate Meyers, Alessandra Rella, Gabe Pimsler, Anna Catherine Grady, and Darren, the group’s Lowernine.org foreman. Standing in front of porch: Jeff Groff, retired F&M employee; Ryan Tabris '18; seniors Lior Wolf and Sarah Brook. Most of the CRA crew worked at a full house rebuild. Standing on porch: sophomore Kim Fermano; juniors Ahmed Barakat, Angelo Martin and Aiden Kenny; senior Brett Schmieder; a Cornell University student; and the homeowner. Seated at stairs, l-r going down: another Cornell student; Lowernine.org staff members; seniors Luke Groff, Kate Meyers, Alessandra Rella, Gabe Pimsler, Anna Catherine Grady, and Darren, the group’s Lowernine.org foreman. Standing in front of porch: Jeff Groff, retired F&M employee; Ryan Tabris '18; seniors Lior Wolf and Sarah Brook. Image Credit: Andy Gulati
  • Junior Ahmed Barakat helps senior Alessandra Rella install siding on a house, one board at a time. Junior Ahmed Barakat helps senior Alessandra Rella install siding on a house, one board at a time. Image Credit: Ryan Tabris '18
  • Roofing crew takes a scenic lunch break along the Mississippi River. Roofing crew takes a scenic lunch break along the Mississippi River. Image Credit: Andy Gulati
  • At dinner, students share the highs and lows of their day. At dinner, students share the highs and lows of their day. Image Credit: Andy Gulati
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