Four Students Travel Great Distances to Work with NOAHH

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It was 5:30 a.m. and the alarm clock started to blare. Leo Pirrin and Marine L’Haridon crawled out of bed looking forward through sleepy eyes to a long day’s work. That day would be dirty and hot, and they had to make it to a NOAHH worksite by 8 a.m.

This was not the first time they traveled this week. Just a few days prior, Leo and Marine traveled from their home of La Rochelle, France, where they study business at the University of La Rochelle, to New Orleans. They found temporary residence at a home in Belle Chase and, thus, had to wake up bright and early to catch a 20-minute car ride with their host family to a bus stop where they would catch the first of two buses to the Ninth Ward.

Leo and Marine’s university requires them to devote two to five months to a humanitarian, social or civic program. Consequently, they chose to work with NOAHH in New Orleans. Marine’s work with NOAHH in the past influenced her and Leo’s decision to work there for the summer.

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“When I came here before it was a great experience, and I wanted to do that again,” Marine said. “The work is hard, but I feel useful.”

Similarly, New Zealander Duncan Parsons and Californian Erica Johnson are working for NOAHH this summer. While Duncan studies business at Duke University, Erica studies media and journalism at UNC-Chapel Hill. They both have the Robertson Scholarship, a joint scholarship between the two colleges, and are giving their time to the New Orleans community this summer.

All four of these students were itching to get their hands dirty.

They spent their first two weeks at a NOAHH home on Ray Street, digging walkways, putting in installation, nailing baseboards and creating wood railings.

Their days were spent in the boiling, humidity-soaked sun, and their afternoons were either spent in that familiar sun or sporadic rains. Regardless of the weather, the students enjoyed working with their hands.

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“I like the fact that I can do something and not just give money,” Leo said.

One of the best parts of the experience was being able to meet Stephanie Bruer, who will live in the house when they are done. She had a broad smile and was diligent with her work since it was her home that she was working on.

“I remember when Stephanie left and thanked me for my work,” Erica said. “I finally made the connection that this would be her house. The railing we built would belong to her.”

The volunteers felt grateful for being able to meet the person that would one day own the house they were building. Knowing that someone will one day stand on the deck and walk up the stairs that they built can make all the difference.

Despite the early mornings and dirt-covered endings to their days, this group of college students enjoys personally giving back to the New Orleans community.

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