by Katie Marino
After almost seven years since Hurricane Katrina devastated the homes of many people in Lousiana, there is still a lot of work to be done. From Jan. 12 to Jan. 16, several students from WHS will be traveling to New Orleans with Temple Emanu-El to help rebuild the still suffering city.
Cantor Martha Novick created this trip for the temple’s Gesher L’Kesher group, after offering the opportunity last year as well.
After traveling on the trip last year senior Allie Merkelson said, "Originally, when our cantor came up with this idea I don’t think she planned on it being yearly, but last year was such an incredible experience that we wanted to go back so badly."
The experience, according to Merkelson, consists of a few days spent in the Lower Ninth Ward, where the hurricane hit the hardest. There the group will help some of the people that lost their homes.
According to senior Kim Hoffman, "Last year, we spent a lot of time helping this one lady who just got her house back since the hurricane and we helped her re-plant a garden in her backyard."
The trip will also include volunteer work at Turtle Cove, an environmental research and education facility for Southeastern Louisiana University, where group members will participate in a restoration activity and take a boat ride on an ecosystem tour.
They will also listen to guest speaker Mark Schleifstein, a Pulitzer Prize-winning staff writer at The Times-Picayune in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit. Schleifstein was was one of the reporters covering the damage caused by the hurricane.
Not only will the group help with hard labor and community service, but they also will spend time interacting with the people of New Orleans.Merkelson said: "It will be fun to meet the residents of this incredible city. Last year, we formed such great bonds with the little children and the adults, who were so grateful that we chose to spend our time there."
Additionally, according to junior Emily Natko, "The group is excited to experience how different the culture and customs in New Orleans are from those in New Jersey."
The group will also spend time exploring the city of New Orleans. According to Hoffman: "My favorite part about the city is how warm, friendly and thankful the people living there are. Stores last year gave us free drinks just because we were there to help out in the Ninth Ward."
Approximately 275,000 homes were lost as a result of Hurricane Katrina, which is ten times as many as any other natural disaster in U.S. history, according to hurricanekatrina.com. Temple Emanu-El students hope that giving their time will help these people in need.