Fairfield University environmental club heads to New Orleans to rebuild homes of Hurricane Katrina victims



Image: Students in New OrleansTwenty-three Fairfield University students are headed to New Orleans for a 'sustainable service trip' in January.

Inspired in part by a mission of marrying social justice causes with environmental stewardship, these eco-minded Fairfield students will rebuild houses damaged by Hurricane Katrina with green building materials during their Christmas break. Students from the university have been travelling to New Orleans for the past several years, providing critical repairs to the homes of low-income residents in still struggling neighborhoods of the city.

"Our team is full of passionate individuals inspired by the opportunity to help people and to make a positive impact on the environment," said co-leader Maggie O'Donnell, of White Plains, N.Y., a senior who will be joined on the January 9-15 trip by fellow student members of LEAF - Leaders for Environmental Action at Fairfield, and Phillip J. Lane, Ph.D., associate professor of economics.

Although the hurricane struck the city five years ago, parts of New Orleans have many damaged homes and empty residential lots. Many of its residents either could not afford to rebuild or fled the devastating floodwaters to start over elsewhere, never to return home.

Terry O'Brien, of Rumson, New Jersey, a junior helping to lead the trip, said that LEAF plans to work with the Washington, D.C.-based Rebuilding Together, an organization focusing on providing low-income or disabled homeowners with "sustainable solutions" through home repair and neighborhood revitalization efforts.

"They are currently the largest group rehabilitating homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina," O'Donnell said. "They try to work within the original architecture of the homes to preserve the history and cut down on wasteful reconstruction."

The non-profit promotes sustainability by using building materials that leave a minimal environmental footprint. For example, paints used have low-volatile organic compounds and construction materials are most often recycled and reused materials. Weatherization techniques - such as weather-stripping, glazing windows and doors, and installing instant radiant barriers - assist homeowners in keeping their homes energy efficient, meaning low utility bills and low environmental impact.

Fairfield students also plan to tour the city with staff from Loyola University New Orleans, a Jesuit institution, and they will be attending lectures delivered by both Loyola students involved in social and environmental justice and residents who experienced the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina.

To follow the group's travels, visit the blog: http://anewleafnola.tumblr.com/

LEAF is comprised of students seeking to promote awareness of environmental issues through education, programming, and activism. To join the e-mail list and find out where you can attend LEAF's weekly meetings, contact leaf.fairfield@gmail.com.

Image: Fairfield University students have taken community service trips all over the country. In January, members of LEAF, a student club, will rebuild and repair homes in New Orleans.  

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on December 17, 2010

Vol. 43, No. 153