If you are embarking on a volunteer project with your kids in New Orleans or elsewhere, Vincent Ilustre, who is the executive director of Tulane University’s Center for Public Service suggests:
DO research before you arrive so that you have arranged a project and the kids have an understanding of exactly what happened after Hurricane Katrina. Just search the Internet for “Katrina projects.”
PLAN a project before you arrive (visit www.volunteermatch.org or www.volunteerlouisiana.org). Beacon of Hope is one organization that can arrange projects suitable for families with kids — www.lakewoodbeacon.org
LISTEN to the locals. Don’t come thinking you have all the answers.
ASK to hear their story. Just ask “How are you doing?” They will open up and tell you their story.
TALK to the kids about the experience. Make sure they understand the context of what they saw and heard.
GO HOME and see how you can volunteer in an effort in your own community. “By coming here, they realize they can help and do something at home,” he explains. “There is so much need.”
Tulane University now requires community service learning for graduation. There are courses with a service learning component. They can help design assistive devices for local residents with disabilities, write for community partner publications, tutor Spanish speakers and more. Students from elsewhere can come here for a five-week internship in early summer (www.cps.tulane.edu).
Tulane is the first Carnegie ranked Research University to implement an undergraduate public service graduation requirement and is being watched as a model. Last year, Tulane’s faculty offered over 100 service learning courses and students contributed over 70,000 hours of community service.
Says Ilustre: “We’re building partnerships where everyone benefits. “