While many Yalies will spend Thanksgiving break relaxing at home with friends and family next week, a group of students will spend their time off in Moss Point, Miss., rebuilding homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
Fourteen Yale students will leave this Sunday for Moss Point, located just east of Biloxi, which is one of the more severely damaged cities in Mississippi. The trip is being organized by the Yale College Council and Hurricane Emergency Relief Organization, an umbrella group of student organizations formed in response to September’s disaster. Costs for the trip are being defrayed by donations raised at Yale, as well as through private funds, HERO coordinator Stephen Kappa ’07 said.
Yale President Richard Levin’s office is managing fund-raising efforts at the University.
“Since we actually had more matching funds than we had yet used, we thought this would be a great worthy cause to support,” Levin said.
Kappa, who organized the trip, said he decided to put together his own volunteer group to visit the Gulf Coast after hearing about plans for a similar spring break trip organized by Habitat for Humanity.
“After seeing images on TV and reading stories in the paper, I had an intense desire to take action and go down as soon as possible,” Kappa said.
The students will be volunteering through the Central Christian Church in Moss Point, Kappa said. In addition to participating in relief efforts, such as debris cleanup and rebuilding homes, the volunteers will celebrate Thanksgiving dinner with the church congregation and will be available to offer general support to victims, Kappa said.
Daniel Weeks ’06, another HERO organizer, said he felt the trip seemed like a good opportunity to get involved in the relief efforts.
“Like every other student at Yale, I was very moved by the reports back in September, and wanted to do something other than donate a few dollars” he said.
Kappa said the Disciples of Christ churches, who put him in contact with the Moss Point church, told him the Yale volunteers are the first group of college students to provide hurricane relief to Gulf Coast communities through the churches.
YCC representative Steven Engler ’07, who is also going on the trip, said the YCC has contributed financially to the relief project by paying for students’ plane tickets to Mississippi. Although details have yet to be fully worked out, Weeks said, the student volunteers will likely be responsible for paying for their own ground travel and food.
Both Engler and Kappa said they feel the trip is in the spirit of Thanksgiving, and they look forward to helping hurricane victims. But group members said they realize there are still so many repairs to be made that it will be years before the region fully recovers.
“This trip is not a huge thing,” Weeks said. “We are just giving a few days to work on a few homes.”
The 14 volunteers will return to New England next Friday.