Two students who participated in Bellarmine’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trip to New Orleans agreed to share their experience with us.
Lauren Thomas, Sophomore Accounting major
Why did you decide to participate?
My goal is to go on a different Alternative Spring Break each year. Last year, I went to Washington D.C. I appreciate the awareness and insight that the program provides. In our daily lives, we often look the other way when we encounter someone asking for change or when seeing litter on the ground. However, on ASB, we actively seek out these situations. Our sole purpose is to help as many people as we can in the most meaningful and, hopefully, lasting way. I also like how the program balances heavy subjects, such as poverty or gender equality, with free time to ensure we have some relaxing fun over your break.
What was the best part?
I find myself seeking out new relationships with people with whom I otherwise would never interact. We visited the Arc of Greater New Orleans, a center which cleans and resells Mardi Gras beads. Most of their employees are adults with intellectual disabilities. While working, we met Mike. Within about ten minutes, he said, “You guys are my friends, did you know that?” The friendships formed are some the truest examples of what it means to be a friend. Each year I sign up for this trip thinking about how many people I’m going to be able to help, but I always forget about how much they are going to help me.
What was the most challenging part?
The most challenging part of the trip was seeing the destruction that still remains from Hurricane Katrina. Driving outside of the city, it was like they had just abandoned whole sections of town. The house we worked on had been abandoned since the hurricane. The water had risen to the second story. When I first walked in the house, I went upstairs and looked out across the neighborhood. It was hard to imagine being surrounded by water as high as the floor I was standing on. However, the most lasting image of the whole trip was the marking on the outside of the house. When rescue workers finally made their way through the city, they would leave a series of markings on the outside of each home indicating when it was searched and how many deceased people were found inside the home. Although the water had receded, the mark was like a tattoo on the home, a constant reminder of the horror the people of New Orleans experienced.
Dara Ricketts, Freshman Communication major
Why did you decide to participate?
When it came time to write my Christmas list, I found myself struggling to come up with much besides food and socks that I needed for the holidays. I heard about ASB in the Daily Knight (the daily student email with the campus goings-on) and realized what a great opportunity it would be go on a service trip. Rather than ask for more material items, I asked for a chance to learn, experience, and serve others. I wanted to eat new foods, meet new people, and see new cultures. ASB was the best gift I could receive.
What was the best part of the experience?
The best part was the impact we made in New Orleans. We focused on several different projects including helping post-Katrina homes, assisting the school system, working with disability services, and giving back to the mission home where we stayed. Seeing so many sides to such a cultural city and getting the chance to help others in all those areas was unbelievably rewarding. We made friendships with people we may never hear from again and helped locals that we may never even meet in-person, but contributing to such a determined and beautiful city was unlike anything I had ever experienced.
What was the most difficult part of the experience?
Leaving. Going back home after pouring my heart into a new place and new people was impossibly difficult. I made so many great friends that I probably never would have met. Much like leaving the beach after a relaxing week of vacation, I felt like I was leaving something beautiful and better behind. I know that even if I go back to New Orleans it will never be the same experience I had that week. But when I packed up my suitcase I packed up my memories as well, and now I have something I can truly treasure forever.