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Home Again after Eight Years Waiting

Rollins Relief is a student led organization that focuses on disaster relief initiatives. They work to provide aid locally, nationally, and internationally to people and communities affected by both natural and manmade disasters. Last week Sande Grantz, a homeowner who was displaced by Hurricane Katrina, finally returned home after almost eight years. During the winter intercession, instead of going home to spend time with friends and family, a select number of students dedicated their week to help Sande restore her home.

Rollins Relief teamed up with the St. Bernard project, “an award-winning rebuilding, nonprofit organization whose mission is to ensure that disaster-impacted communities recover in a prompt, efficient, and predictable way. With its innovative, vertically integrated construction system, SBP is poised to serve as a model for disaster rebuilding and affordable housing.” Former Rollins Relief President, Adrian Cohn, served as the liaison between Rollins Relief and the St. Bernard Project. During the week, the students were exposed to real-life construction conditions. The students applied multiple layers of spackle to the walls, sanded and sanded and sanded and applied the first coat of primer to the walls during their week of service. During the downtime, the students got to experience the magic of the city. Marissa Corrente, one of the advisers of Rollins Relief, said this of New Orleans:

“Being my first visit to New Orleans, I absolutely loved seeing and learning more about the city, the people and the culture there. It has such a rich, diverse culture that extends well past Bourbon Street and the French Quarter. My absolute favorite part though was meeting different people and learning about New Orleans from them – by hearing their stories, their experiences, their traditions. Everyone was so warm, so hospitable, and welcoming.”

Rollins Relief was founded in 2005 and since, has been to New Orleans twelve times to assist with the cleanup and the rebuilding. Larry Eng-Wilmot, EW, Professor of Chemistry at Rollins and co-adviser for Rollins Relief, has been with Rollins Relief since their first trip to New Orleans all the back in 2005. Rollins Relief has “exposed [students] to things they have never experienced before, to be submerged in a state of disequilibrium by what they witness and reflect on, to learn new life skills and gain new self confidence, and importantly to learn via practice what it is to lead.” This is important, sometimes personal work for the people involved with Rollins Relief. Sofia Macias ‘13, Rollins Relief President, found herself a victim in a disaster:

“I’ve experienced disaster first-hand. When I first moved to Florida, my family and I were in a hurricane. We hadn’t had prior experience with hurricanes, coming from up North. We thought it would be perfectly reasonable to just ride it out. The first night of the hurricane, a tree crashed right through the middle of my bedroom. It was an incredibly frustrating experience, because everything shut down and we were stuck in this really destroyed uninhabitable area, but we didn’t have the resources to leave.

The organization is looking to expand its service by committing to local and non-disaster relief. Currently, Rollins Relief is teaming up with Greg Fisher, Safety and Emergency Plan Coordinator for Rollins; to get students Community Emergency Response Team, C.E.R.T, trained, and make Rollins the first C.E.R.T trained campus in the state. Students that are trained would be paged during local emergencies to assist in everything from tornado and hurricane disaster relief to searching for bodies. The training will be supplied by the Orange County Fire Department and there will be no cost incurred by the college or to the students.

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