The University of New Mexico Dean of Students office recently hosted the fifth annual ‘Alternative Spring Break’ (ASB) trip. Eight students visited New Orleans with staff members Lisa Lindquist and Anna Trio. Students and staff assisted Camp Restore, a nonprofit organization, with several community-based partners to continue aiding the community 10 years after Hurricane Katrina.

The UNM students engaged in many service projects with Camp Restore including cleaning out horse stalls at the NOLA Rescue Ranch. NOLA is a non-profit organization that takes in abused or abandoned horses while also supporting the community with other services such as a rigorous after school program and equine therapy.

The students also helped out at the Arc of Greater New Orleans gardening at “Vintage Garden,” a place that serves adults with developmental disabilities, and bead sorting at a recycling center. They also worked along side staff at HOPE the Food Pantry of New Orleans putting together take-home lunches and grocery boxes for those in need, and helped teachers and students at a KIPP Charter School by making inspirational flash cards and posters for their testing times.

“There was a group we worked with at KIPP that felt like they weren’t able to make as big of a difference in the kids’ lives as they would like. It is true that not all schools are equal and they don’t all need the same amount of help but it doesn’t make the impact any less. It’s the little things, like boosting moral with posters and making flash cards so kids can learn to read, that add up at the end of the day,” said UNM participant Haley Aragon-Bell.

“My hope is that students who participate in this program will walk away with a sense of accomplishment not only for the work that we did, but for appreciating the ways in which we were challenged as individuals,” Lindquist said. “This type of experience can teach a person so many things they didn’t know about themselves, help find strengths they didn’t know existed and allow reflection on the things we wish we could change. Of course, not every aspect of this trip is life-changing – we also had some fun, made some friends and ate some really good food."

Anabella King, another UNM student said, “Overall, ASB was an incredibly rewarding experience that was also fun. I enjoyed meeting new people, and serving and exploring the community of New Orleans.”

Student Lluvia Trevizo said, “It was one of the best experiences I ever had. The culture, the music, the architecture are all so impressive, but the people are the ones who made a great impact on all of us.”

Almost 10 years since the hurricane, the people of NOLA are still rebuilding and restoring their homes and neighborhoods. Camp Restore pairs with over 80 non-profit organizations to help restore faith, community and home.