Cu Denver students in New Orleans

Students learn about social issues in NOLA on Alternative Break

February 10, 2016

What happens in New Orleans doesn’t have to stay there.

Ten CU Denver students traveled to the big easy for an Alternative Break service trip focused on issues in urban poverty and homelessness. The trip was organized by student leaders Nadeen Ibrahim, a 3rd year student in the public health and premed program, and Chloe Sanders, a 3rd year student double majoring in psychology and economics. Over the course of the week, Ibrahim, Sanders and their peers immersed themselves in the New Orleans community, learning, serving and reflecting on their experiences.

“CU Denver does a great job of thoroughly educating their student leaders and participants on the community they are serving so we are able to go in with an open mind,” Sanders said. “We are able to look for assets in the community, reflect while we are serving and then bring it all together for a discussion at the end of each day.”

Even though their week serving in New Orleans has concluded, the group’s work has not. They are planning a service day in Denver so that they can share the lessons they learned and use their experiences to benefit their own community.

“The point is not to go on a one-week service trip and call it good,” Ibrahim said. “We are bringing what we have learned back and seeing how we can better our own community and continue to be allies of the communities we were welcomed into.”

View the gallery below to learn about their trip.

CU Denver students NOLA bus
Day 1: CU Denver students took public transportation from the airport to their lodging in New Orleans. This gave them a chance to immediately connect with the community. One early lesson was how the transportation disparity negatively impacted less affluent areas. From left to right: Omer Sarwana, Dinesh Lakkaraju, Hannah Stobough, Anya Dickson, Amanda Ta and Matt Gamache. Front: Ilham Dehry.
CU Denver group at music community center
Day 2: One of the group’s first projects was restoring a building to function as a music-centric community center. The group was joined by members from the local community.

Siamese cats at Animal Rescue New Orleans
Day 2: Who knew service could be so fluffy? Some of the CU Denver students volunteered at Animal Rescue New Orleans. Managing stray animals is challenging for the community, especially since Hurricane Katrina.
Burnt home in New Orleans
Day 3: Jamaal, a New Orleans local, had almost completed the renovation of this home and planned to lease it as individual apartments. Unfortunately, when homeless individuals took shelter in the house on a cold winter night, a fire they started to keep warm raged out of control. Jamaal appealed to local organizations for assistance in restoring the home.
CU Denver crew at Jamaal's home
Day 3: The CU Denver crew answered the call for help and spent the day gutting the fire-ravaged home. From left to right: Omer Sarwana, Dinesh Lakkaraju, Megan Frewaldt, Ilham Dehry and Chloe Sanders.
Arynn Prescott with bagged lunches
Day 4: Arynn Prescott poses with a grocery cart filled with donated food for the poor and homeless in Central City. CU Denver students distributed two shopping carts full of bagged lunches to individuals in need.

Moument to unknown slaves in Tremé
Day 4: The group visited a monument to unknown slaves in the Tremé neighborhood. Visiting sites of historical and cultural importance helped the CU Denver students better understand the community they were serving.
Frewaldt and Sakura
Day 4: Megan Frewaldt, who served as staff advisor for the trip, poses with Kone Sakura, the group’s Social Justice tour guide.

Jazz in New Orleans
Day 5: CU Denver students took a break from service projects to tour the French Quarter and the surrounding area. During the tour the group was able to enjoy live jazz and world-famous beignets from Café du Monde. From left to right: Matt Gamache, Anya Dickson, Dinesh Lakkaraju and Ilham Dehry.
CU Denver students near Jackson Square in the french Quarter
Day 5: Several members of the group wore Lynx Alternative Break hoodies during their tour of the French Quarter near Jackson Square. From left to right: Matt Gamache, Hannah Stobough, Dinesh Lakkaraju, Nadeen Ibrahim, Anya Dickson, Amanda Ta, Omer Sarwana, Arynn Prescott, Chloe Sanders and Ilham Dehry.

Garden on Mars in NOLA
Day 6: CU Denver students worked with the Garden on Mars organization, which grows vegetables and flowers in the Lower 9th Ward. The gardens are important to the area as they help teach sustainability to community members, provide an inexpensive food supply and afford additional income through the sale of the flowers.
Lizards in the garden
Day 6: While tending the community garden, Chloe Sanders came across lizards hibernating inside a planter. They were successfully relocated to another area.
Miss Jeanette and CU Denver students
Day 6: Though Hurricane Katrina occurred 10 years ago, it is not history for those who lived it. Miss. Jeanette, founder of Garden on Mars, shared her “Katrina Story” with the group during a break. After the hurricane caused Miss. Jeanette and her husband to flee their home, her husband decided that if no one was left on their street, they would not be returning. When they checked the area, Miss. Jeanette broke into tears when she saw that just one other neighbor remained. Happily, she was able to return home.

Peace Pole Park
Day 7: No one really remembers exactly when Peace Pole Park was created, but locals do remember that the white pole, with four languages across its sides, was intended to mark a place where people of all backgrounds could gather. CU Denver students partnered with United Saint Recovery Project to clear overgrowth and replace the rotten, faded Peace Pole with a new one. Arynn Prescott poses with the new Peace Pole.
Peace Pole Park
Day 7: Matt Gamache, Chloe Sanders, Megan Frewaldt and Nadeen Ibrahim clear vines off of the chain link fence that borders Peace Pole Park.
Peace Pole and CU Denver students
Day 7: CU Denver students stand proudly with the newly installed Peace Pole. From left to right: Amanda Ta, Matt Gamache, Omer Sarwana, Chloe Sanders, Hannah Stobough, Ilham Dehry, Nadeen Ibrahim, Arynn Prescott, Anya Dickson and Dinesh Lakkaraju
Cafe Hope
Day 8: The CU Denver group toured Café Hope, a farm-to-table restaurant that provides job training for community youth. Workers start with basic jobs such as washing dishes and busing tables and are given a clear track and training to become chefs, managers, and other top-level roles. From left to right on top row: Omer Sarwana, Arynn Prescott, Amanda Ta, Ilham Dehry, Hannah Stobough, Anya Dickson, Dinesh Lakkaraju and Matt Gamache. From left to right on bottom: Chloe Sanders, Nadeen Ibrahim, Megan Frewaldt and Elvia Chauvin–founder of Café Hope and its job training program for youths.
Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1
Day 8: The group visited Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1., where they learned about people interred in the cemetery who were pivotal in the history of the city such as Homer Plessy, the plaintiff in Plessy v. Ferguson, and Ernest N. “Dutch” Morial, the first black mayor of New Orleans.
NOLA Mural
Day 8: This mural depicting Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., located near the group’s apartment at the United Saints Recovery Project, continues to be a source of inspiration for the CU Denver students.