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February 22, 2008

16 Students Join Baer to Help Katrina Victims

Assistant Professor of Religion Jonathan Baer will lead a group of 16 Wabash students on a service trip to New Orleans over spring break. They will be helping hurricane Katrina survivors rebuild their homes and lives in Al-jeers, near the French Quarter and Ninth Ward.

Because of the uncertainty of weather conditions and the unpredictable stream of volunteers who trek down to help, Baer and the students do not have a locked-in schedule. However, they do know that they will be working Monday through Friday and that possible tasks include gutting remaining houses, putting up dry wall, installing carpeting, roof work, and miscellaneous assignments. A few members from First Christian Church will accompany Baer and the students to lend their building expertise as well. Baer and his team will also be escorted through the city to view a larger area of the devastation. According to Dr. Baer, the group is prepared to respond to anything that may come their way.

The event was planned in conjunction with First Christian Church in Crawfordsville and Westside Mission, a New Orleans-based organization affiliated with the Disciples of Christ. Westside Mission has taken charge of the logistics of bringing groups to the ravaged region to help it recover in the aftermath of the 2005 storm. Shortly after the storm, the organization constructed barrack-like structure that they furnished with bunk beds, a kitchen, and washer and drier with the idea that they could then host church and student groups from around the country.

The idea came to Baer about eight months ago while listening to a sermon of Pastor Keith Strain of First Christian Church, who had just returned from his own volunteer recovery effort in New Orleans.

“[Pastor Strain] incorporated some of what they had seen [in New Orleans] into his sermon, and he spoke about what remains the enormous devastation down there:  the shattered lives, shattered hopes of many people,” said Dr. Baer. “And his point in talking about it was that as Christians we need to be sure that we’re living out our faith and that we’re looking for opportunities to help those who are suffering and those who are in need. [Also], while we do an excellent job with immersion trips which are fabulous learning experiences, I think we haven’t often had opportunities for people to serve many men, women and children in need. I think that’s an important part of the education process here and something [to which] we want our students and our graduates to be committed.”

The service group will drive down to the work site on Sunday March 2 and return on Saturday, March 8.

Student Participants: Larryjoe Brown, Jeremy Burton, Eric Griffin, David Haggard, Baron Hewetson, Mike Karam, Daniel King, Andrew Kyler, John McGaughey, Jake Moore, Adrian Perez, Wes Prichard, David Swann, Homer Twigg, Tyler Williams.

Daniel King will help the group document their trip by posting daily blogs from New Orleans.