UC Berkeley students continue to rebuild New Orleans, 10 years later

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Ten years after Hurricane Katrina badly damaged New Orleans, UC Berkeley continues a volunteer program to help rebuild the city. (KGO-TV)

Ten years ago this week, New Orleans was forever changed when Hurricane Katrina destroyed landmarks, neighborhoods and killed nearly 1,500 people.

A decade later, UC Berkeley students are still spending their time and energy rebuilding that city as part of a volunteer program.

Ten years ago after disaster struck thousands of volunteered poured in, but only a few have continued to help rebuild that city. UC Berkeley is one of the universities that have stayed. More than 600 Cal students have gone through the program.

When the country saw the plea for help following Hurricane Katrina, UC Berkeley was one of the first universities to respond.

Geoffrey Mitchell spent his summer there in 2006. He said, "There were house in the middle of the road, cars on top of houses, houses on top of cars."

All have been part of The Magnolia Project -- one of many public service programs offered by UC Berkeley.

Among the hardest areas hit by Katrina was the Lower Ninth Ward -- an underserved community in New Orleans.

Mitchell says volunteering there helped him understand the economic disparities that still exist. He says he noticed, "The French Quarter, which was rebuilt almost immediately, and then you look at the Ninth Ward and it looks like Katrina hit yesterday."

But volunteer Rosa Ortega says after Katrina, many residents vowed to change their past. Ortega says Cal students have been there to support them.

"Really empowering voices, how to support people and having their voice heard," Ortega says.

These are all lessons not necessarily taught in the classroom. Alana Banks, a senior at Cal, is now an activist in the West Oakland community she lives in teaching neighbors what to do in the event of a disaster like an earthquake.

"What it looks like to have disaster relief, and what does it look like to have an evacuation plan and what does it look like to have things in your home, so that if there was an earthquake you would be prepared," Banks said.

They all agree, they didn't change New Orleans, that city changed them.

One student told ABC7 News after volunteering she went from being a biology major, since she wanted to be a pediatrician, to now focusing on global poverty, peace and conflicts.

Related Topics:
educationUC Berkeleyhurricanehurricane katrinavolunteerismcollege studentstravelu.s. & worlddisasterBerkeleySan FranciscoLouisiana
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