A team of Whitworth students will assist with disaster-relief efforts in Mississippi in January as part of a new study program that the college developed this fall in response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast region.
The team of students, led by five faculty and staff members, will travel to Gulfport and Jackson, where they will work alongside community members to remove debris and contaminated housing material, and to repair and renovate homes. Whitworth is one of many colleges and universities throughout the country whose students are collaborating with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance to provide hurricane relief.
"We developed the program out of a desire to serve the Gulf Coast and to provide a learning experience for students," said Andrea Donahoe, visiting professor of psychology and one of the program's creators and faculty leaders, in an announcement released by the college. "Students will assist communities in need, but more than that, they will grow personally and broaden their worldviews as they serve and work alongside community members."
In addition to engaging in service projects, students will study the history and culture of the Gulf Coast, secular and religious social-support networks in the area, and the effects of poverty and trauma on individuals and families. Students will also learn about art that is unique to the region, and about creating art as a way to respond to and heal from tragic incidents.
The "Communities in Crisis" program, conceived by Whitworth faculty this fall, will begin with an on-campus orientation Jan. 3-4 before the group flies to New Orleans and then drives to Gulfport on Jan. 5.
On Jan. 14 the Whitworth group will travel to Jackson, where the students will coordinate their relief efforts with the John M. Perkins Foundation for Reconciliation and Development, an organization located in inner-city Jackson that seeks to restore communities through Christian community development and racial reconciliation.
"Our hope is that the 'Communities in Crisis' program will be the first of an ongoing attempt to serve and learn about communities in need," said Donahoe, according to the college. "Hurricane recovery will last for a number of years, which will provide the opportunity for Whitworth students to return and assist with reconstruction and build relationships in the Gulf Coast. The program could also expand to include service learning in other cities and even in other nations."
While in Mississippi, participants plan to share their experiences in an online travelogue that will include photos and student-journal entries. The travelogue will be accessible on the Whitworth website at www.whitworth.edu.
Program leaders are currently raising funds to support students' travel expenses and to support the organizations with whom the Whitworth group will be working. To make a donation, please contact Andrea Donahoe at (509) 777-4440 or firstname.lastname@example.org.