Six students from the Studying, Exploring and Engaging Discipleship (S.E.E.D.) Club of Venango College of Clarion University traveled recently to the heart of New Orleans, Louisiana as an introduction to the vast mission field. Their goal for the trip was to find meaningful, educational work that would help restore a depressed area in New Orleans. S.E.E.D. worked with Camp Restore, a camp that was built to house and coordinate volunteers for the city.
New Orleans has many areas still affected from Hurricane Katrina, which was the deadliest and most destructive Atlantic tropical cyclone of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. It was the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes, in the history of the United States. At least 1,833 people died in the hurricane and subsequent floods. Total property damage was estimated at $81 billion (2005 USD). S.E.E.D.'s service there provided only a glimpse of physical relief, but their outreach and love-in-action planted many seeds that will continue to grow as more volunteers pour into the city each week to restore and be restored.
S.E.E.D. club members worked for four days at various locations on several projects. They worked alongside faculty at the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) Leadership School to fix artwork in the Media Center, create new artwork for bookshelves, organize a teacher’s materials unit and room, and create bulletin boards.
The Metropolitan Center, a facility for victims of domestic violence, welcomed S.E.E.D. to assist with the huge volume of donations they’d been receiving that were collecting unused in a garage. S.E.E.D. cleared out unusable items and sorted through hundreds of articles of clothing, bedding, housewares and accessories and created two functional boutiques for the residents there. They also cleared their pantry of outdated items while interacting with residents and staff, provided meaningful assistance as well as encouragement in smiles and laughs. This location was in need of twin bedding, so club members turned to social media and collected pledges on Facebook to pay for new sheets and purchased bedding from Camp Restores’ closets to fill the need. With these donations, the S.E.E.D. club was able to donate over 30 sheet sets to two different shelters, as well as pillows, blankets and towels – all needed items.
The club also worked to spring clean the Hagar House, a home for women and children still displaced from Hurricane Katrina. They washed walls and windows, stoves, AC units, de-weeded the perimeter and helped with many additional projects around the house.
Lastly, the students had the opportunity to work at Always Pursuing Excellence Youth Center (APEX), a community center for teens and young adults in one of the most impoverished areas of New Orleans. Although the club helped clear newly built shower units and organized donations, they felt the information they gained from the leadership there was the best part of their experience. The APEX staff educated the club about the current situation in the community, the academic depression, and home lives of the children, most of whom have seen death on their streets and the dangers of living there. They have a mission to focus on getting the youth off the streets and providing them safe ways to spend their time, learning, playing sports and interacting with volunteers.
S.E.E.D. put many hours into collecting donations, cleaning the camp and restoring the community, but they also had fun. APEX enjoyed their help so much that they gave S.E.E.D. 26 NBA tickets that were donated to them to take the club and other volunteers to a Pelicans Vs. Raptors game. The students ate fresh beignets downtown and went on a swamp tour to see alligators; some were even brave enough to hold an alligator. S.E.E.D. went to a Hurricane Katrina exhibit to learn more about the levees and how far the city has come, but saw that there is still more work to happen there.
The S.E.E.D. Club is planning mission work in Venango County before they go on another trip. If you know of projects or service S.E.E.D. can provide, please contact their advisor, Casey McVay at 814-393-1229 or firstname.lastname@example.org.