Most university students spend their breaks unwinding at home or on a relaxing vacation, but this past winter, Guy Bowe of Tamaqua was one of 11 Susquehanna University students who traveled to New Orleans as the Hurricane Relief Team to assist with ongoing recovery efforts.
From Dec. 14-21, the students worked with the organization Rebuilding Hope in New Orleans (RHINO), which is a mission of the St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church.
Since RHINO first opened its doors in October 2005, the organization has worked with over 4,000 out-of-state volunteers. Seventeen homes have been built through its partnership with Habitat for Humanity.
On this recent trip, the students helped rebuild homes in the Carrollton section of New Orleans. Working every day from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., they did work in siding, blocking, and roofing.
The work was a great opportunity for Bowe to gain new skills.
"I had no previous experience, so it was certainly fun and challenging learning how to do all of these things," he said.
Bowe was thankful for the chance to visit the area and to learn more about the current conditions.
"The trip was an amazing experience. I got to meet a lot of interesting people and hear about how Hurricane Katrina impacted them. It amazed me how much still needs to be done."
RHINO teaches volunteers about the challenges New Orleans continues to face, as well as its history and its place in the world. The organization encourages volunteers to take the time to enjoy the city outside of their RHINO responsibilities.
"They gave us a tour of the surrounding area," said Bowe. "We were also provided with recommendations for activities to do in our free time."
Overall, the trip was an eye-opening experience for Bowe and the rest of the students.
"The general kindness of the locals was amazing. People were very appreciative of the work that we were doing."
Bowe was inspired by the trip to continue forward as an active citizen.
"I've done community service projects throughout college, and by far this was the most gratifying. I plan on looking into more service trips in the near future," he said.
The trip was a part of Susquehanna University's Global Opportunities (GO) Program, which requires students to spend at least two weeks off campus learning and surrounding themselves with a culture different from their own. In addition to New Orleans and other U.S. cities, students have spent time in Africa, Asia, Australia, South America, and Europe.
Bowe, the son of Jeffrey and Rea Bowe, is a 2007 graduate of Tamaqua Area High School. He is a senior finance and economics major at Susquehanna University.