Students Serve Others In New Orleans, Jamaica
Over Christmas break, 30 students accompanied staff chaperones on service trips to help those in need in New Orleans and Jamaica.
Restoring Homes in New Orleans
From January 5-11, 19 Fairfield University students and two chaperones, Tyler McClain and Stephanie Gallo, traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana to restore homes that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. The group worked with Rebuilding Together New Orleans. On the worksite, the group primarily restored the outside of a home, which included scraping and priming, as well as restoring the windows.
The homeowner, Mr. Laurence, was extremely grateful for the all the work that was being done. His home on Leboeuf St. has been in his family for generations and he was so thankful that he would now have a home he was proud of to pass down to his children. Mr. Laurence sat outside every day, even during the frigid weather, watching the day-to-day progression of his home. “We could really see the appreciation of everything we were doing by the joy in his face. Mr. Laurence stayed outside with us doing all that he could to contribute and even his attitude was positive and motivating,” said Briana Colantonio ’14.
After a successful four days on the worksite, the group ended their week of service by volunteering at the Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter. When Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans, almost 50,000 animals were left behind. The group worked on multiple tasks such as cleaning cages, washing dogs, and most importantly showing the animals the love they deserve. Each night of the week the group gathered to reflect on their feelings, experience, and self-growth through group reflection and blogging. Bridget Wakelin ’13 shares, “The trip was amazing. We weren’t just there to help the people of New Orleans, we were there to learn about ourselves and how we should be thankful for everything we have.”
The group also got to experience many of the great tourist attractions that New Orleans has to offer during the evenings. This included having dinner in the French Quarter, going on a swamp tour, listening to a live jazz band, and watching a New Orleans Pelicans Basketball game. One of the most impactful experiences however was speaking to and hearing first-hand stories of Hurricane Katrina victims. “It was incredible to see how even after all the hardships the people of New Orleans went through, they are some of the happiest and most welcoming people I have ever met,” says Fairfield University senior, Shannon Fay.
Overall, each participant of Fairfield University’s student-led service trip left New Orleans learning an essential lesson; even a small contribution can change another person’s life and in return reveal growth in oneself. Student leaders, Benafsha Juyia ’14 and Monique Goguen ’14 said they could not imagine a more successful week. “This service trip really opened everyone’s eyes to the real impact they could make. Our bond as a group grew and strengthened and each participant reminded us of yet another reason why we led this trip down to New Orleans,” says both the student leaders.
Ordinary People do Extraordinary Work in Jamaica
Twelve students and two staff persons, Jocelyn Collen and Katie Coutu, went to Jamaica from Jan. 3013, with student leaders Alex Long and Victoria D’Altrui.
The group visited orphanages, nursing homes and schools in the poorest neighborhoods of Kingston Jamaica. "When we visit people in Kingston, many of the children or the elderly are non-verbal. Most of our interactions are based on communication without the English language," explained Jocelyn Collen, Campus Minister.
The group traveled to Mandeville (another city) to visit the Passionist Volunteers there. There is a 2013 Fairfield Alum, Elly Lemons, living in Mandeville right now as a Passionist Volunteer (PVI = passoinst volunteers international). Elly hosted the group, and took them to her mission sites where she serves five different communities in the rural areas surrounding Mandeville. While in Mandeville, the students stayed at John Bosco Boys’ Home which is an orphanage for boys.
Student Jill Muhlbauer ’14 shares, "I never imagined my trip to Jamaica to be a transformative experience, and I am so thankful for this opportunity at the start of my last semester at Fairfield. The Jamaican people taught us the value of simple living and human connection while fully embracing us into their lively culture. Each site challenged our comfort zones, but by the end we were able to connect with complete strangers despite their disfigured appearances and inability to speak. We formed a community where a group of ordinary people came together to do extraordinary things."