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>  News Releases >   2005 >   November

Dartmouth students will spend winter break helping with hurricane relief

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 11/18/05 • Contact Genevieve Haas (603) 646-3661

On Dec. 8, a group of Dartmouth students and staff will depart for a much-anticipated journey. But instead of going home for winter break, they will head to Biloxi, Miss., where they  will lend a hand as the city works to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. The two-week service trip in December, and a subsequent trip in the spring, are being funded by the College.

"There has been an overwhelming sense of support from the College itself, faculty, staff and students who have assisted with fundraising, donations, service, education and communication."

- Stuart Lord

The group will be working with "HandsOn USA," a relief organization providing Gulf Coast residents help with houses that need to be demolished and debris that needs to be cleared. HandsOn identifies demolition and construction needs on an ongoing basis and the Dartmouth group will take their "marching orders" from this organization.

Stuart Lord,  Dean of the Tucker Foundation, and senior Nicholas Taranto  traveled to Biloxi in October to identify the city's needs and explore the possibility of building a lasting relationship between Biloxi and Dartmouth. The goal is to make a two-year commitment of three service trips per year.

Lord and Taranto met with education and city officials, disaster relief coordinators and spiritual leaders. "In listening to local community leaders, we attempted to match their needs with our resources with the goal of maximizing our intellectual capacity," said Lord. The plan developed for the service trip focused on five areas: a documentary about housing advocacy; oral histories; art for schoolchildren; resumé-writing assistance; and demolition/construction.

"A lot of people just want to talk about their experience," noted Taranto. "That's why we thought an oral history program would be helpful." Resumé and career assistance are critical since many Biloxi residents were left unemployed by the storm.

"It's important to be flexible. We expect to use each trip as an opportunity to construct the next trip," said Lord. "Biloxi's needs are changing daily, so the projects will need to change in response."

The Biloxi trip was developed by the Dartmouth Emergency Response Group, which created five "Katrina Help" committees, run primarily by students, to lead the response to the hurricanes. "There has been an overwhelming sense of support from the College itself, faculty, staff and students who have assisted with fundraising, donations, service, education and communication. Katrina Help has a network of over 800 people," said Lord.

"I found that there are a lot of people at Dartmouth who are willing to contribute and help when you have a goal in mind that benefits others," agreed Taranto, who is working on a senior fellowship titled "Without a Net: Displaced People in the Twentieth Century." Taranto cited a 2004 trip to the mountains of Peru, where he photographed local residents, as the experience that sparked his commitment to service. "I realized that idealism and self-interest could be synthesized by translating personal experiences into concrete social action," he said.

Thirty-six students, accompanied by nine staff advisors, are signed on for the Biloxi expedition. "The staff advisors come from all across the College," said Linda Kennedy, Trip Leader and Director of Student Activities.

Participants are paying a nominal fee of $150 toward the cost of travel, with the College funding the bulk of the expenses with a $50,000 commitment-$25,000 towards each of the first two trips. Dartmouth's Student Assembly contributed another $7,000, which will subsidize the cost of food and fund the documentary film.

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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