Teens lend helping hand in LA

Hyua Jung recalls the horror of seeing pictures when she was in Korea of the massive destruction in Louisiana caused by Hurricane Katrina. Eighteen months later, the teenager was wielding hammer, saw and other tools helping people on the Gulf Coast recover.

BY SHARON DUNTEN | SLIDELL, La. | March 19, 2007


Hyua Jung recalls the horror of seeing pictures when she was in Korea of the massive destruction in Louisiana caused by Hurricane Katrina. Eighteen months later, the teenager was wielding hammer, saw and other tools helping people on the Gulf Coast recover.

Jung is one of hundreds of young people from high schools, colleges and universities across the U.S., who have forsaken their typical spring break frolics to help in the recovery effort.

Jung found herself cutting plywood with a miter saw and climbing around on the roof of a damaged house installing insulation and plywood as a volunteer in Slidell, La.

She described her volunteer experience this month as "pretty cool."

"Korean students don't follow the idea (of volunteering) like this group follows here," she said.

Jung, a junior at college prep school Kents Hill School in Maine, flew to New Orleans with more than a dozen students and staff to spend spring break working at the UMCOR Northshore Recovery Center in Slidell. The town is located east of New Orleans across Lake Pontchartrain in St. Tammany Parish.

Numerous volunteers from foreign countries have traveled to Slidell to lend a hand in the rebuilding effort. Two other Kents Hill students, one from Germany and one from China, also spent their spring break in Slidell.

"We've had representatives from eight foreign countries volunteer at the center," said recovery center building superintendent Dale Kimbell.

Kimbell said he likes to fly the flag from a foreign volunteer's country at the UMCOR office.

Since Katrina smashed the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, 2005, more than 8,700 people from 44 states have volunteered at the center, he reported. That works out to about 150 volunteers a week.

"They need a lot more people to volunteer," said Sara Munson, a junior at Kents Hill.

Among the student volunteers were two from New York City who a few years earlier had to cope with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

Huyette Spring and Cahrik Crenshaw said Hurricane Katrina was a different kind of disaster from 9/11 attack.

The World Trade Center attack "happened in an instant," Crenshaw said.

The Twin Towers also went down quickly and the recovery was in one area, compared to the 90,000 square miles of destruction from Katrina, they said.

The majority of Slidell residents affected by Katrina were unable to return to their homes for up to three months because of the storm surge that flooded the city.

"Here, the water sat for such a long time," Crenshaw said.

"Also, we did not see the hurricane begin and we did not see it end," Spring added.

Kimbell said 80 percent of the homes in Slidell were damaged when they were hit by 175 mph winds and flooded by a 22-inch storm surge. Forty percent of the homes suffered catastrophic damage, he said.

Volunteers usually are assigned to work at homes that range in size from 1,000 to 1,200 square feet.

Despite the massive devastation, student Jackie Goldberg said she admired the attitude of the survivors.

"We see the 'let's get it done' attitude down here," said the Kents Hill senior. "People are very positive and are not lagged down."

Goldberg, a returning volunteer, participated in Readfield UMC's Volunteer in Mission. The church sponsored seven school members in 2006 and has made a five-year commitment of volunteers to the recovery center.

"We don't have a good reason not to volunteer," added Robin Huntley, another returning volunteer. "This is a good experience."

Huntley said she planned to produce a slide show about the students' experience over spring break.

Reconstruction in Slidell started more than a year ago. Since then, 267 homes have been rebuilt through the Northshore Recovery Center. In the first six months after the hurricane, the center focused on relief work, providing food, clothing and shelter, Kimbell said.

Kents Hill School started in 1824 as Maine Wesleyan Seminary with ties to the United Methodist Church. The school, located on a 400-acre campus, is a private, co-ed institution serving grades 9-12 plus an additional "post-graduate" year. Enrollment is 230 students from 21 states and more than 18 foreign countries.

The UMCOR Northshore Recovery Station is a ministry of Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Slidell.


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