A Category 5 hurricane that made landfall on August 29, 2005, Katrina was one of the deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history: More than 1,800 people lost their lives in the hurricane and resulting floods. Members of the Dartmouth College community have been in the Gulf Coast ever since to help people rebuild, maintaining one of the longest continuous Katrina service commitments by a higher education institution in the United States.
Ninety percent of the buildings on the coast of Biloxi, Mississippi, were destroyed in Katrina, and Dartmouth alumni, faculty, and staff were in the city to help rebuild on June 16–23 as part of a service trip organized by the Tucker Foundation. Led by Reverend Stuart Lord, dean of the foundation, and Frederica Ghesquiere '04, the Dartmouth team participated along with volunteers from around the country in construction projects organized by Hands On–Gulf Coast. The cost of food and communal lodging in a Hands On facility is on a sliding scale; participants make and pay for their own travel arrangements.
Each day, the Dartmouth crew helped demolish houses, remove mold, haul rubble, put up drywall, and did other construction tasks; worked in parks or in community centers; and serve in other ways. Each evening, they signed up for projects for the next day, met with community volunteers, participated in group reflection sessions, and socialized. Two participants, Vicki Allen '06 and Adi LaBombard, agreed to share their experience of rebuilding Biloxi in daily posts from the city.
Vicki Allen '06 was a dual major in earth sciences and geography and volunteered extensively for the Cabin and Trail division of the Dartmouth Outing Club. She also participated in the Women of Color Collective, Dartmouth Woodsmen's Team, ROX Department, and DOC First-Year Trips Program. She now works for the DOC Summer Work Crew, building the new Harris Cabin and structures at Dartmouth Organic Farm and maintaining the Beaver Brook Trail. "Gaining experience in outdoor education, learning about renewable energy, growing vegetables (even carrots) in pots, and moving on from my great life in Hanover" are Vicki's immediate goals.
Adrienne LaBombard—Adi to all—grew up in Lyme, N.H. and went to Hanover High School. She graduated from McGill University in Montreal with a degree in linguistics and psychology in 2005. She's currently the compensation coordinator in the Office of Human Resources at Dartmouth. She's saving up for graduate school and studying Japanese, with the goal of earning a master's degree in Asian studies. The Tucker Foundation trip to Biloxi is her first experience with a service trip. "I have a feeling that despite hours of preparation, I'm probably still unprepared for what I'll find," says Adi.