NOAHH Asks 1,200 Volunteers How They Will Make Their Mark

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Over 1,200 students from high schools and colleges across the United States and Canada will contribute over 26,000 volunteer hours to NOAHH during their spring breaks, leaving their mark upon the city and its fight against poverty housing. Volunteers will help build homes, clear trash from neighborhoods through our Attack the Block (ATB) program, and repair homes through our ABWK programs.

Using the hashtag #makeyourmark, student volunteers will tag their pictures and social media posts so that NOAHH can capture them, thereby illustrating the hard work, support, and progress spring break volunteers bring to New Orleans every year.

“We can’t overstate the impact of student volunteers,” said Jim Pate, executive director of NOAHH. “There has been a difference made each year by college and high school volunteers. This infusion of students is a cornerstone of our progress in the years following the federal flood.”

Volunteers from 34 schools in 14 states, two Canadian provinces, and Washington, DC, will be joining NOAHH for home building and neighborhood revitalization projects. Of these, 20 schools have previously volunteered with NOAHH, many of which will bring students from previous years. Some will come in small groups of only 10, while some groups, like the Rockwood School District from Missouri, will bring a total of 65 students and staff to the city.

With an abundance of different perspectives–near or far, new or old, college or high school–NOAHH believes the story of alternative spring break will be a unique and insightful look at the volunteer experience in New Orleans. While the students from Canada and New York will find a welcome change in weather, local students will have stories of the connections they’ve built with the city to tell. Students from Tulane Medical School will bring a different perspective from those going to the Juilliard School, and the annual showcase of talent from the Juilliard students is a highlight of the experience.

Every Friday in March, student volunteers will take part in the ATB initiative, now in its third year, spending half the day clearing trash and cleaning sidewalks and parks in four New Orleans neighborhoods where NOAHH builds. This year’s sites will be St. Roch Playground, Bunny Friend Park in the Upper Ninth Ward, Taylor Park in Central City, and a set of lots in New Orleans East that are owned by NOAHH. Clean up will take place in the surrounding neighborhoods. The Junior League of New Orleans has joined NOAHH as a sponsor of the project. Along with neighborhood cleanup projects and home construction, students will also participate in 19 ABWK repair projects.

The total impact of spring break volunteers is impossible to measure, but some of what they have accomplished can be seen in the numbers:

  • Counting the upcoming volunteers for 2014, NOAHH has recorded over 16,000 student volunteers during spring break.
  • The largest influx of spring break volunteers came in 2009, when over 3,500 students joined NOAHH for their vacations.
  • Volunteers have worked on over 185 homes.
  • Over 70 homes have been finished during spring break volunteering.
  • Over 90 homes have been started during spring break volunteering.
  • Through ATB, volunteers cleaned up 807 bags of trash, 335 tires and other bulk items, 174 sidewalks, and 186 storm drains.
  • Volunteers have worked on 20 ABWK projects, completing 16 of them.

No matter what type of volunteer work they end up doing, the students who have chosen to forgo the usual parties and vacations for volunteering with NOAHH this year will leave a mark on the city, the people they meet, and their own lives. In less than a week, most will make friends, build homes, and strengthen communities here and at their schools through the connections they make. For every home they have worked on, a family has been served. With thousands of students working on hundreds of homes throughout multiple neighborhoods, thousands of connections are being made, and those connections leave an intangible mark on everyone involved. NOAHH has fostered these connections for years, and this year, the affiliate hopes to capture their stories and share them with the world.”