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Still Rebuilding, Three Years After Katrina

When Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama on August 29, 2005, students like Delia Gorman and Alexander Lambrow, both ’10s, were still in high school and watching it unfold like most of the country.

Hurricane Katrina caused more than 1,800 deaths and an estimated $81.2 billion in damages, making it one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history. Dartmouth stepped up to the challenge to help the Gulf Coast rebuild.

Three years after the devastation, damage still remains.

And so does Dartmouth’s commitment.

Through the Tucker Foundation, more than 320 people from Dartmouth have invested over 4,000 hours in Gulf Coast recovery efforts. Of those, about 100 worked in Biloxi, Miss., a small city 90 miles east of New Orleans. The Tucker Foundation organized its first service trip to the region in December 2005 and added it as an option for Alternative Spring Break (ASB) participants. 

 

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Delia Gorman 10 (left), pictured with another student volunteer from Penn State, was the first participant in the Tucker Foundation's Gulf Coast Internship Program.

 

Gorman considered a second trip to the region after the experience she had on ASB in 2007, helping to clear out a damaged mosque and handle the relocation of sacred religious texts.

Gorman was the first student to take part in Tucker’s new program, the Gulf Coast Internship Program. The internship was partially funded by an AmeriCorps grant received by Hands On Gulf Coast. Recognizing that the needs in Biloxi have moved beyond clearing debris and removing mold from empty houses for two-week stretches, the internship program sends students to the city for eight weeks to work in partnership with Hands On Gulf Coast. They coordinate skilled labor duties of volunteers, such as construction and hanging sheetrock.

As the first Gulf Coast intern and a team of one representing Dartmouth, Gorman was given the task of organizing the spring break experience for over 500 student volunteers who were coming to Biloxi over the course of a month.

"I had to come up with projects for the volunteers, their sleeping arrangements, and their social activities," she says.

The psychology and public policy major took on her mission with vigor.

With her supervisor, she managed a list of ongoing projects across the city for incoming students to work on. She tracked which teams were where on a daily basis and broke the projects out into themes, so that teams could rotate through a different theme every day.

The biggest lesson she learned was “not to panic and to draw on the resources around me. Also, learning how to ask for help. The whole experience was humbling because you learn what you’re limits are. But I knew I was a better person for being there when I left.”

Alexander Lambrow went to Biloxi last spring and, like Gorman, learned the value of flexibility. Originally tasked with building shade structures, he ran into trouble getting his project off the ground. When the architect didn’t provide the blueprints, Lambrow switched gears and took on duties at a K-12 school dedicated to students with learning and behavioral difficulties, and worked with the Boys & Girls Clubs after school program.

 

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Alexander Lambrow ’10 (on far right, pictured with other Hands On Gulf Coast volunteers) spent his eight-week internship in Biloxi, Miss., working at a school for students with learning disabilities and at a local Boys & Girls Club.

 

“No matter how hard I worked to execute my plan, something always came up,” Lambrow says. “There were times when I thought I was in over my head but I was still excited about the chance to do the work.”

Before leaving Biloxi, Lambrow did get to complete one of the shade structures for a park in the city. Elementary school students from across the city were painting ceramic tiles to go inside the shelter on the day he was leaving, he says. And before his departure, Lambrow created an instruction manual for future volunteers to use for constructing more shade structures through the city.

“I came away from there knowing I want to serve and I know there are a lot of opportunities for me to serve,” says Lambrow. “That was the biggest lesson, that there is a lot of honor in doing that.”

By LATARSHA GATLIN

Questions or comments about this article? We welcome your feedback.

Last Updated: 12/17/08