Davenport University’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) Program recently sent 18 students to New Orleans from February 25 – March 3 to assist with flood prevention and recovery through ecosystem restoration. ASB offers students the opportunity to become active citizens in their home communities and communities across the nation.
The group stayed in the historic Lower Ninth Ward, which was one of the hardest hit areas during Hurricane Katrina and during the floods due to its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. The area first experienced a devastating loss in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, and thousands of homes are still being lost due to devastating floods in the area, with damage from the floods rivaling that of Hurricane Katrina. The area was also hit with tornadoes earlier this year, further adding to the damage and loss within the area.
The ASB crew played a small part in providing aid to the area and its residents in partnership with the organization Common Ground Relief. The group helped repair the local ecosystem through planting water-absorbing plants and Cyprus trees in Jean Lafitte National Park as well as in area bayous with the National Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service, and worked in the Common Ground Relief nursery to take care of plants for future projects. These efforts will help restore and preserve both the homes and natural environment in the area, and allow wildlife to return to their homes.
The group also had the opportunity to engage in the cultural experience of Mardi Gras, and learned a lot about the people in the communities they were helping. In addition to the work completed in New Orleans, the group also conducted to volunteer projects at Howard Christensen Nature Center, which allowed them to help better the community of Grand Rapids in addition to the city of New Orleans.
Student and Site Leader Marissa Beadle has been involved with ASB for three years and states that ASB, “Has given me the opportunity to grow as a volunteer and active citizen not only here in Grand Rapids, but in different communities across the nation from St. Marks, Florida to Columbia, South Carolina and now New Orleans, Louisiana. I have met some of the most wonderful students here at Davenport through ASB and could not be more thankful for the opportunity grow within the RSO and end my time as a Site Leader!”