FALMOUTH, Maine — After a week of working long days rebuilding a home in Hurricane Katrina-ravaged Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, 10 Falmouth students are getting used to being back in the swing of things at school.
They are the fifth generation of Falmouth students to make the 1,700-mile trip south to work with Habitat for Humanity, rebuilding homes damaged by the storm.
According to Holly MacEwan, high school service coordinator, 50 students have been part of the program over the past five years. Each student must answer a set of questions in an essay to earn a spot on the team.
“It is a privilege and a challenge to get on,” MacEwan said.
On the Jan. 20-26 trip, one sophomore, eight juniors and one senior helped Habitat and “The Tiger Team” — a group of retired men who work with Habitat — fix the home of Bay St. Louis resident David McCulloch.
“We repaired the house for [David], whose house was pretty devastated by Katrina,” junior Nate Boehm said. “He had hired a contractor [to repair the house] and had a heart attack while the contractor was working.”
While McCulloch was hospitalized, all of the interior copper piping in the home was stolen, and he couldn’t afford to rebuild.
MacEwan said McCulloch was on-site every day, thanking the volunteers for their work.
The students said by the time they left the renovation was almost complete and they were proud of the work they were able to accomplish.
“We went down there because it feels good to make a difference and we really helped someone out,” junior Graham MacEwan said.
In addition to working on the home, the students had a jam-packed schedule filled with opportunities to experience the community.
“We engage in the community a lot when we are down there,” Holly MacEwan said. “The students are on the Habitat site working a full workday and as soon as they are done they go to a child development center and play with the kids there for a while and then there is an evening activity.”
Juggling the long workday with the rest of the activities was the most challenging part of the trip for the students, because most of them have never worked for that long.
“We were on a really tight schedule,” Graham MacEwan said. “We would get up at like 7 a.m. and have breakfast. After breakfast we would go to the jobsite and from the jobsite we would go right to the child development center and then the evening activity. We had a tight itinerary, but it worked out.”
For the most part, the town of Bay St. Louis is rebuilt, but there are still areas that look like the storm just passed through.
“There are a lot of empty lots and stairs from houses that were there,” junior Sabrina Smithwick said.