At least four campus groups are joining forces in a trek across the country next month – their final destination: the hurricane-hammered Big Easy.
Associated Students, Habitat for Humanity, American Red Cross Club and California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) currently have 30 volunteers signed up to participate in Hurricane Katrina relief organization Common Ground Collective’s Roadtrip for Relief, which is heading to New Orleans from Dec. 14 to 28. The volunteer mission, which received $9,000 in funding from Associated Students Legislative Council yesterday, will help provide relief to the city’s Ninth Ward – a neighborhood that experienced serious flooding during the recent storms and remains in a state of disrepair.
According to Common Ground’s website, the organization will provide basic shelter and food for the 300 volunteers they are expecting from around the country. A.S. is providing the transportation, which will be free for participants, with the help of several upcoming fundraisers.
Aaron Jones, A.S. student government advisor, said the first fundraiser will be held at Silvergreens today from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Half of all sales will go to funding for transportation to New Orleans. A.S. Legislative Council Off-campus Representative Etuajie Oiyemhonlan, who is assisting Jones in organizing the volunteer effort, said A.S. will organize a charter bus to take the students across the country if its fundraising efforts are successful.
“We don’t want cost to be a prohibitive factor in our students’ ability to volunteer,” Jones said.
Vi Nguyen, a volunteer and fourth-year communication major, said she hopes the group can secure a community sponsor, in addition to its fundraising events.
“We are having quite a few fundraisers to raise money,” Nguyen said. “We are also looking for a sponsor in the community who will match whatever we manage to raise.”
The UCSB chapter of CALPIRG is currently coordinating with chapters of the organization at other UC campuses to spread interest in the trip to students around the state, said Sarah Stein, campus representative for CALPIRG, in a press release.
“We hope to send hundreds of UC students to New Orleans during the month of December,” Stein said in the release.
The UCSB American Red Cross Club will host free disaster training classes on campus Nov. 22 and 29, club Vice President Kaitin Bhakta said, teaching participants what to expect in the event of a disaster. Bhakta, a second-year biology major, said student volunteers heading to New Orleans are encouraged to attend the classes.
“The Ninth Ward is a hard hit area, and everything over there is still messed up, even though it has been months,” Bhakta said. “They need help over there.”
Kerul Dyer, a volunteer with Common Ground, said relief authorities have all but forgotten about the Ninth Ward, which is a historically poor African-American neighborhood.
“There is still no power here,” Dyer said. “We have been totally overlooked. This is outright neglect on a city, state and local level.”
Students and community members who would like to donate to or volunteer to the Road Trip for Relief can contact Jones at (805) 893-2566, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.