We had no idea what to expect when we arrived at the community center outside
of Lafayette, La., under the cover of night. The floors were hard and sleep was
irregular, but come 9 a.m., our group of 17 students and three coordinators
were eager for action. A field of sugarcane fringed the center's yard and we
hurried to taste it. Breaking the rods in half, we found rotten yellow mush
where the fibrous centers should have been. Over the next few days, many small
moments like that reminded us that it was only a few weeks before that the
disastrous floodwaters had receded, leaving rotting, molded artifacts behind.
Immediately following the disasters of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the
Colgate community felt a strong impulse to actually "do something." During
October break, students from all grades and demographic areas traveled into the
hurricanes' destruction zone with COVE director Marnie Terhune, assistant
director Betsey Busche, and administrative coordinator Colleen Nassimos.
Our mission was to do what we could to help community members, while also
fact-finding in preparation for later excursions. Working with the Southern
Mutual Help Association's rural recovery task force, the Colgate crew canvassed
areas to determine and prioritize tasks, contacted FEMA, and lent eager and
able hands wherever it could.