Service club plans January trip

Eat, dance, work and give someone a home this January on Mission I’m Home’s (MIH) trip to New Orleans.

The Stevenson-founded organization is hosting its annual trip to rebuild homes lost to Hurricane Katrina Jan. 7-12, 2017.

“Every year on these trips I hear people say they are life-changing experiences,” said Morgan Somerville, director of student engagement at Stevenson University and co-founder of MIH. “You learn new things about yourself, you learn new things about our country, you learn new things about…the process of putting a house together…but you’re really having an impact and changing the world.”

A group of students volunteered to help rebuild and clean up in New Orleans. Stevenson students have been participating in MIH since 2009. (Photo from Stevenson.edu)

The MIH trip focuses on helping families who have been out of their home for 12 years because of the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina. The club was co-founded by Somerville, Arthur Fifer, assistant professor of information systems, and Romas Laskauskas, assistant professor of business, 10 years ago after Somerville’s trip to New Orleans to rebuild with the Saint Bernard Project, an organization focused on shrinking the time between disaster and response.

Somerville, convinced she had found her calling, came back to Stevenson University looking for a way to serve this cause. Pairing with Fifer, who wanted to start a service class, was a natural move in the right direction, and together they took 15 passenger vans across the country to provide relief.

The trip has blossomed since then. Now a group of students in matching T-shirts fly to Louisiana, looking forward to a week Somerville describes as being full of dancing, hard work, new friendships, and lots of good food.

“There’s this phrase in New Orleans that says, ‘be the lagniappe,’ which means be a little something extra,” said Lauren Novsak, a junior business communication major at Stevenson University and president of MIH. “I think for the students, faculty, staff, and alumni who participation in Mission I’m Home trips, they’re a little something extra. They give a little something extra, they learn a little something extra, and when they come back, they’re completely changed for the rest of their lives.”

Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans in 2005, destroyed homes and buildings all over the area. The city is still being cleaned up over 10 years later. (Photo from google.com)

The trip involves hard work. “Manual labor’s no joke,” Somerville said. Students will work eight hours per day, but Somerville said for most, this isn’t enough. She often finds herself having a difficult time convincing students to leave on Friday, and many students have signed up for additional trips before they fly back home.

Somerville encourages all students to go on the trip, no matter their major, background, or age. “Anyone, any skill level, is fine,” she said. “If you’ve never touched a hammer before, that’s okay; we will teach you.”

The trip in January has closed for registration. However, students interested in going on a trip with MIH to help SBP are encouraged to sign up for the Spring Break trip to Baton Rouge. Applications are due by Dec. 15, 2017 and can be accessed here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScpmzgnAgxkVnX0SGTIEn-Od5bP-4Uh5UAOennXO2ygnjtxiw/viewform or on MIH’s Facebook page.

“It’s a life-changing week-long experience where you can learn new skills, make new friends, and truly make a difference in a community that absolutely needs our help,” Somerville said. “Eat. Dance. Work.”

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