Alternative Breaks 2015 participant, Isaac Gonzalez, recaps his experience in Louisiana last March, and why the program is so important to so many people.
The sky was black. The wind was strong. Homes were destroyed. Lives were lost.
10 years later and that city is still not back to how it once was.
The world watched as a Tropical Depression turned into a Category 5 Hurricane and wreaked havoc on an unsuspecting city. The winds blew at speeds upwards of 175 mph and, due to the bowl shape of the city, the city was immediately flooded.
New Orleans, Louisiana was destroyed by a hell-bent hurricane. The catastrophe caused over $108 billion and the lives of over 1,800 people.
During the hurricane, thousands of people from the state migrated to Texas after their respective town was torn to shreds.
It was our turn to do something about it.
With that, the Alternative Breaks Program was born. The program sent UT students to areas across the nation to participate in service learning projects — including disaster struck areas in New Orleans.
We were out to do something different. But it went beyond that for us. We wanted to make a difference in this community. We wanted to go out there and tackle an issue while shedding light on other issues that New Orleans still faces.
We recruited 21 of the brightest and passionate students UT had to offer, trained and educated them on social justice issues faced by the people of New Orleans and created relationships with various community partners to help rebuild a new home city.
The plan was set. We were going to plant a garden and repair some houses. Although it sounds small, we were going to do what we set out to: we were going to help families, school children, and New Orleans as a whole. Everything we imagined was becoming a reality.
It was time to get out there.
The 21 students were broken off into three groups of seven and assigned to three different service sites. One site involved working on a sustainable garden and the other two, working on damaged homes. And do not let those descriptions fool you, all were extremely difficult and time consuming.
In the end, to see that the work we did mattered; to see how we were affecting the community; to hear “thank you” from a family in need — these were the most rewarding parts of our time spent there.
This year, we will continue our mission in New Orleans, Louisiana and in addition to this trip, we will be adding on two more trips: one to McAllen, Texas to learn more about and do what we can to tackle immigration issues and another to San Francisco, California to assist LGTBQ advocates in the fight against homophobia.
To learn more about the Alternative Breaks Program and how you can get involved, please visit this link.
By Isaac Gonzalez