Sal Migliaccio 11F first visited New Orleans in high school, volunteering to help with the ongoing efforts to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. "Going back was less a question of whether I could commit to returning, but rather how I would find a method of getting there," he says.
It turned out to be easy enough. Last year, his first at Hampshire, Migliaccio discovered the College's alternative spring break program. Since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, Hampshire students have spent their spring breaks lending a hand in the recovery efforts.
"It is shocking how in some places in the city, so many years after Katrina, it is still as if the hurricane only just happened," says spiritual life director Liza Neal. Spiritual life and women's and queer services organize the alternative spring break trips. Staff from those programs accompany 10 to 15 students to New Orleans each year, along with the occasional staff member from other areas of Hampshire.
This year, the group will work with Habitat for Humanity, although past groups have worked with various organizations. A constant since the first year is the Annunciation Mission, an Episcopal church that was rebuilt after Katrina with room for volunteers to eat and sleep.
While most of the week is spent working, students and staff also meet with religious leaders and community members in New Orleans, and take some time to explore and learn about the city. Rebuilding is the focus, but there's a bigger picture in mind. "My hope for this and future trips is for students to learn experientially about issues of race, class, poverty, religion, and history," says Neal.
"My hope is that a sense of community is created amongst the group that goes, and a desire to make change visible in their own communities."