Tabor College students invest time in Katrina assistance along Gulf

While the devastating earthquake in Haiti captures the world?s attention, people living in Louisiana and Mississippi are still in the process of rebuilding their lives nearly five years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast.

Eight Tabor College students will participate in the Disaster Relief and Service Travel Study Tour during Interterm, from Jan. 11-29. They will experience the impact of natural disasters as they work alongside survivors of Hurricane Katrina, which killed 1,836 people and caused some $81.2 million in damage in August 2005, and more recent hurricanes in the region.

The group will be led by Karol Hunt, chair of the Division of Education, Social Science and Applied Arts at Tabor College, who has made seven service trips to the region, including two previous Disaster Relief classes.

Even with all the work that has been done in recovery, Hunt says there is much yet to be done.

?The need is still the same for the hurricane survivors, rebuilding or refurbishing their homes,? Hunt said. ?The situation does not get much news coverage because the media has moved on. Obviously, the recent earthquake in Haiti is going to be the major news story, and rightly so because immediate survival is at stake.?

Week 1 will be spent with Mennonite Disaster Service in New Iberia, La., working on both new construction and existing structures under the direction of Tabor graduates Gil and Rhoda Friesen, who work in New Iberia for MDS, the disaster-relief agency of Mennonite churches in the United States and Canada.

Week 2 will be spent refurbishing homes in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans with Samaritan?s Purse, a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world.

Along the way, students will interview survivors in the various stages of rebuilding their lives, local relief workers, law enforcement officials and health care providers. Students also will attend culturally diverse church services, and keep journals of observations, questions, and insights during the trip.

Before the trip, students were assigned books to read and engaged in discussions and wrote papers on the impact of Katrina and other hurricanes in the region.

According to Hunt, the students are going down to the Gulf Coast eager to serve.

?In talking with them I can sense that these students have a desire to impact the lives of the survivors,? Hunt said. ?They want to know if the disaster has either turned individuals toward God or away from him. They also want to be a part of the Christian community that is still stepping up to help in the rebuilding process.?

Objectives of the study tour include expanding the students? horizons and gaining a better understanding of how natural disasters affect individuals, neighborhoods, cities and regions; assisting individuals in rebuilding their lives following a disaster with physical labor, emotional encouragement and sharing the message of Christ; responding with sensitivity in relationships with persons from another culture and understanding the importance of conveying respect for others as guests in their culture; and discussing the Christian?s response to poverty and disaster.

Students making the trip are John Frankenfield, Overland Park; Jared Redding, Hesston; Juli Richardson, Imperial, Neb.; Aaron Schmucker, Inman; Jera Teselle, Downs; J.D. Tippin, Hillsboro; Rachel Unger, Ferndale, Wash., and Travis Unruh, Shafter, Calif.

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