WVU medical students spend spring break building homes in New Orleans

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – While many students were headed to relax and soak up the sun on the beach, several first year medical students from the West Virginia University School of Medicine traveled to New Orleans, where they spent their spring break volunteering with Habitat for Humanity.

“Nearly four years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is still recovering. It’s a lot worse than you think,” Adam Morrison, WVU medical student from Erie, Pa., said. “They aren’t kidding when they say people are still needed to come down and build homes.”

Last fall, Morrison and a few other medical students decided they wanted to participate in a big project in order to fulfill the 100 community service hours required to graduate.

One student’s past volunteer work in New Orleans prompted Morrison to research volunteer groups in the area. He and a few others agreed on Habitat for Humanity, and soon after more students wanted to participate.

“It was amazing to me that 26 more people from our class wanted to take time out of their spring break and help people in New Orleans,” Morrison said. “We’re getting into a profession where our life is dedicated to the service of others and this was a great opportunity to help people in need.”

Overall the students completed 65 hours of community service. They spent four days building a house and working on roofs of other homes in Musicians’ Village in the Upper 9th Ward of New Orleans.

“A lot of people down there are musicians and don’t have a lot of money,” Morrison said. “They play just for the love of music.”

For $25 a night, the students stayed at Habitat for Humanity’s Camp Hope, an old middle school used to house volunteers in St. Bernard Parish outside of New Orleans.

“We went down there knowing we were going to New Orleans, knowing we were staying at Camp Hope, but we didn’t know what we’d be doing,” Morrison said. “We found out the day we got there where we were going to work.”

“I have never used a hammer before, and I didn’t think I could build anything,” Hilary Hickman, WVU medical student from Middlebourne, said. “It was a great personal experience for me as a woman.”

The students raised their own money to pay for the trip. One fundraiser in particular raised the majority of money needed. A ball signed by the basketball team was auctioned off for $1,000 on Tony Caridi’s Statewide Sportsline radio show. Donations made by family members and various members of the community also contributed to the overall cost of the trip.

“It was a great experience to help rebuild a city, a great city, nail by nail,” Aaron Lim, WVU medical student from Charleston, said.

For more information about Habitat for Humanity visit www.habitat.org. To learn more about Musicians’ Village see www.habitat-nola.org/projects/musicians_village.php.

For more information about WVU School of Medicine visit www.hsc.wvu.edu/som/.


For more information:
Amy Johns, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
el: 05-20-09

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