More than 40 UW-Green Bay students headed south this winter break, building homes — and memories — with Habitat for Humanity in Slidell, La. Dean of Enrollment Services Mike Stearney accompanied the group, and blogged about its progress (click here to read). Stearney provided the following account of the trip, including photos, upon the students’ return:
On New Year’s Day 2012, 43 UW-Green Bay students convened in the frigid, dark parking lot behind the campus Laboratory Sciences Building and set out on an eight day adventure to Slidell, La. There they spent the next several days building houses with the St. Tammany West affiliate of Habitat for Humanity. The trip was bookended by two 19-hour bus rides, and in between, there were four days of hard labor, roofing, painting, trimming, insulating and siding Habitat houses in Abita Springs and Madisonville, La. Students’ days started very early (6:30 a.m.), their accommodations in Slidell were rustic (bunkhouse style, 24 to a room, three showers each for the men and women), and they ate their meals on folding metal chairs in a cold gymnasium. And to the very last one, they returned home excited about the prospect of doing it again next year.
The students were greeted with gratitude and showered with appreciation by the good people of St. Tammany Parish. Jeff, a member of the church where the students stayed, surprised them with a wonderful meal of spicy jambalaya, bread and tossed salad. John, another volunteer, delivered trays of bread pudding one evening. Barbara, the pastor of the church where they stayed, helped to put on a Mardi Gras party complete with beads, zydeco music and king cake. One of the families whose home the students worked on greeted them every morning with homemade biscuits and coffee, and even baked a surprise birthday cake for one of the students. These were but a few of the many gracious and unexpected acts of kindness that the students received from a grateful community.
A highlight of the trip for many was the recreation day to New Orleans. The students toured the Lower Ninth Ward, saw the Brad Pitt “Make it Right” houses, and took a ride through the Garden District. After that, it was off to the French Quarter for the afternoon, where they wandered the streets, listened to street bands, took hundreds of pictures, shopped for souvenirs and ate wonderful food; po’ boys, gumbo, alligator soup, etouffee´, shrimp, oysters, beignets, etc. The evening ended where all evenings in the French Quarter end — on Bourbon Street for some music, dancing and people-watching.
All told, it was a wonderful week. The weather was fantastic, the students made many new friends, and they returned rightfully proud of what they accomplished. A rough estimate: 1350 hours of labor contributed to five houses that will soon go to deserving families in St. Tammany Parish.