Community Service Spotlight: Osteraas rebuilds disaster-stricken homes

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Lauren Osteraas

Sophomore Lauren Osteraas went on a volunteer trip over the summer to aid in the rebuilding of houses in New Orleans that were destroyed from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. "It was challenging to see how much poverty and damage there still was after so many years after Katrina. We did everything we could to make it the best it could be under the circumstances and it gave us hope to know that there were still thousands of other volunteers coming down to help with the thousands of other houses and people that are still struggling,” Osteraas said. Submitted Photo:

Volunteering, giving back to a community, and devoting time to a cause is a debt people must pay. Volunteers do not necessarily have the time for these efforts, but rather they have the heart to endure physically, emotionally and mentally draining responsibilities in order to complete a common goal of service. Students at St. Paul Academy and Summit School have the pleasure of being able to experience community building miles away, and with it they gather knowledge of trust, teamwork and cooperation. Sophomore Lauren Osteraas gained insight of unity over the summer with Project Homecoming. Osteraas traveled with this organization with the incentive to re-build houses in New Orleans for low-income families that still face the repercussions of hurricane Katrina from 2005.

Osteraas illustrates the damage throughout the streets as being difficult to comprehend, and the lack of supplies made it tough to compensate for the loss these families have faced since the hurricane. She also clarifies that the effort to restore houses is a group effort within the organization, and that one simple trip will not reconcile the toll the hurricane had on New Orleans.

It was challenging to see how much poverty and damage there still was after so many years after Katrina. It was also hard since we were only volunteers, and we had a limited amount of supplies to use to fix houses, so we were not able to fix everything. We did everything we could to make it the best it could be under the circumstances and it gave us hope to know that there were still thousands of other volunteers coming down to help with the thousands of other houses and people that are still struggling,” Osteraas said.

I will never forget the looks of  pure gratitude and joy at seeing the completed new house.”

— sophomore Lauren Osteraas

Challenges aside, Osteraas reflects fondly upon the eye opening experience she encountered. She says it was not only inspiring to see the gratitude from the owners of the houses, but it was also unifying in the sense that she met new people from around the country who all came to improve the lives of many who don’t have the financial stability to improve it themselves. Osteraas would urge SPA students to partake in a trip similar to hers to gain perspective.

“I would recommend going on a trip like this because it helps putting things into perspective and gives people a sense that you are making a difference by doing something really good that is going to change another person’s life forever. It felt truly amazing to have an opportunity to do something for a complete stranger as important as providing them with a safe and usable home,” Osteraas said.

In her final reflection of this unforgettable trip, Osteraas recalls her most vivid memory. Her memory involves a specific man she helped, and how she was able to see his reaction to his house finally being complete.

“The whole week some people from my church and I had been working on a man named Mr. Troy’s house. He has lived in New Orleans his whole life. Eleven years ago he watched as his house was blown to pieces by Katrina. On the last day of the week we had just finished re-painting the outside of house, completing the eleven year process of rebuilding. I will never forget the looks of  pure gratitude and joy at seeing the completed new house. It is that kind of raw emotion that I have rarely seen especially in my normal everyday life, the kind that only comes after great loss,” Osteraas said.

It is this same emotion that students can experience if they take a leap, go outside of their comfort zone, and make a difference by volunteering.