Service and faith in New Orleans

Sophomores Christina Deconcini and Caroline DeVita paint the exterior of a house in New Orleans.
Courtesy of Christina DeConcini '18

Sophomores Christina Deconcini and Caroline DeVita paint the exterior of a house in New Orleans. Courtesy of Christina DeConcini ’18

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Eight Convent of the Sacred Heart students and two faculty leaders embarked on a community service trip to New Orleans to repair houses for the victims of Hurricane Katrina January 18 through January 26.
Mrs. Jenn Bensen, Upper School Academic Dean and Network Exchange Coordinator, and Miss Lindsay Thompson, Physical Education Teacher and Coach, served as leaders to six sophomores, one junior, and one senior on the eleventh annual trip.
The group volunteered for the St. Bernard Project, which is a nonprofit organization that provides supplies and volunteers to rebuild homes that Hurricane Katrina destroyed in 2005. The students and faculty worked in the Ninth Ward, one of the most damaged neighborhoods from the storm.
During their time in Louisiana, the Sacred Heart students rehabilitated four houses. Their jobs included painting exterior walls, remediating mold, and securing the dry wall in each house.
As a first time visitor to New Orleans, sophomore Caroline DeVita relished the experience to serve others outside of her community.
“The service was very rewarding because I feel like I was really making a difference in the lives of the families whose houses we rebuilt,” Caroline said.
While in New Orleans, the students stayed at the Duchesne House, a volunteer housing organization that is associated with the Society of the Sacred Heart.
In addition to rebuilding homes with the St. Bernard Project, the volunteers discussed their personal experiences with each other and participated in morning prayer.
“There was always a theme of how we can bring what we have learned back to Sacred Heart Greenwich and the larger community to help create positive change in our world,” Mrs. Bensen said.
The students also toured St. Louis Cathedral, Academy of the Sacred Heart, the Whitney Plantation, The French Quarter, and Tulane University. Additionally, they attended mass at the Our Lady of Guadalupe church.
Sister Lynn Lieux, Religious of the Sacred Heart and former head of the Academy of the Sacred Heart, spoke to the students about the school’s first-hand experience with Hurricane Katrina. Furthermore, the volunteers met Academy of the Sacred Heart students and faculty.
“We learned Sr. Lynn’s first hand Katrina story and how grateful she was for the Sacred Heart community who supported her and the girls when they needed help,” junior Lauren Capolongo said.
Sophomore Christina DeConcini enjoyed receiving a visit from Ms. Veronica Lee January 21. The St. Bernard Project is currently repairing the house of her father, Mr. Edward Lee, who had previously lost money to contractor fraud.
“It was very gratifying to see Veronica’s appreciation for all the work we have done and to see her faith and positive outlook on life despite all she has endured,” Christina said.
Throughout the trip, volunteers wrote in journals where they would reflect on the events of that day.
Originally, the volunteers were supposed to arrive in New York City Sunday January 24. Due to snowstorm Jonas, however, their flight was cancelled, and they returned Tuesday evening.
This delay in departure allowed Sacred Heart Students and faculty to visit additional New Orleans attractions such as the Presbytére Museum, which has a Hurricane Katrina and Mardi Gras exhibit. They also traveled to the Super Dome where they toured the New Orleans Saints football field and locker rooms with volunteers from the Brunswick School. Lastly, the volunteers painted more exteriors of damaged houses with the St. Bernard Project.
Mrs. Bensen’s volunteer experience helped her realize that Hurricane Katrina still has a significant effect on the New Orleans community eleven years later.
“My time in New Orleans working with the St. Bernard Project has been life changing,” Mrs. Bensen said. “I fully expected the trip and the work to have an impact on me, but I was not prepared to see the devastation that still exists for so many people.”
-Maddie Squire, Staff Writer