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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

UMB Students Help Again in New Orleans

UMB Students Help Again in New Orleans

Over the winter break, 53 students will be spending about a week of their time doing something positive. These volunteers are traveling to the Lower Ninth Ward and working alongside the Common Ground Collective, a volunteer organization based in New Orleans.

“The Ninth Ward was one of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina a year and half ago,” junior Stephen Lavery said. “So many people from across the country, and even across the world, have done what they can to help New Orleans rebuild, but there is still so much to be done that we don’t feel like we can just stand by and watch. So much still needs to be done. Volunteers will be needed for many years to come, but if we don’t take but a week from our vacations to go and help, then there will be that much more work to be done.”

The students who are going will have about a week’s worth of rest from school before heading off.

“Everyone is going to be in New Orleans by Jan. 3,” Lavery said. “A small group of about eight to 10 people will be leaving early by train, so they can rent vans and get other logistical stuff taken care of before the rest of us get down there, by plane, on Jan. 3. We are going to be sending groups on multiple flights because there will be so many of us traveling. We will be leaving New Orleans on Jan. 12.”

The group of students had $11,000 approved for them through the Student Senate’s Budget and Finance Committee, primarily for transportation costs for the 53 students.

“Normally, we can cover up to 65 percent of these costs, and the individual student pays the remaining 35 percent,” Budget and Finance Committee chairman Shawn Engel said. “I know they plan on traveling by both air and train, and they are renting vans for local transport. I think it’s wonderful to see students reaching out to the community and country to give of their time and effort and to see UMass Boston students’ boots on the ground in humanitarian efforts such as this.”

Normally, groups of students looking for funding for activities or trips are often backed by organizations. However, several student organizations supported these students.

“The trip is being coordinated through the Africana Studies Department and Student Life,” Engel said. “They did have support of many student organizations, but since a chunk of the people wanting to go were not involved with clubs or centers, I advised they come before B&F as individuals. Credit, though, should be given to the variety of clubs eager to support this endeavor-African Student Union, United for African Growth, Anthropology Club, The Cape Verde Students Association, Black Student Center, Haitian American Society and A.R.M.S Center. Professor Robert Johnson of the Africana Studies Department has also contributed $1000 in funding, along with $150 from the Gaston Institute and $500 from the Joiner Center.”

With a little more than 50 students and some faculty attending, the trip has reached its maximum capacity. Those who are interested in helping out, though, should not think their chance is over.

“At this point, I don’t think we can take on any more people for the trip,” Lavery said. “That’s unfortunate, because we would love to take a larger group. There is going to be another trip over Spring Break, and the plan right now is to go to Chicago for the week, but we have not finalized that. We started Alternative Spring Break last year, when 12 of us volunteered in Washington, DC for a week. This year, we are hoping to increase the cap on ASB to 20.”

The number of students attending the trip says a lot about UMass Boston, and how willing the student body is to help out those who need it.

“It is important that we do our part in New Orleans,” Lavery said. “It has been a national tragedy, and so many others have done their part to try to fix what has gone wrong. It’s important that we all realize that the world doesn’t end at Morrissey Boulevard. So many people do so many great things in the Boston area, thanks to an incredible Office of Service Learning and Community Outreach that has organized volunteer opportunities that any UMass Boston student can take part in. The world doesn’t end around here, and it’s a great that we can go to another part of the country and have the same kind of influence, and show the rest of the world what UMass Boston is really about.”