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Students to aid New Orleans residents

Nearly 20 Binghamton students seeking master’s degrees in social work will devote their spring break to providing long-term disaster relief in New Orleans.

The five-day March trip is designed to aid residents of the city’s Seventh Ward, which is plagued by high poverty and crime rates and still lacks basic services in some areas, said Jennifer Marshall, director of field education for the Department of Social Work.

Binghamton’s Master of Social Work program trains students to work with vulnerable populations, so this project is a natural for the group.

“This is community service coming from the foundation of our profession,” Marshall said.

Students will work with HIV/AIDS caseworkers to provide case management support and referral. They’ll offer referral services to isolated individuals in need of help. They plan to raise money and bring gift cards to home-improvement stores and other retailers, which they will give to residents who need appliances and building materials.

The projects will be done through Ithaca-based Love Knows No Bounds, which focuses on helping rebuild the Seventh Ward of New Orleans.

Marshall expects the first- and second-year graduate students will have an opportunity to integrate and synthesize information they’ve learned in the classroom. “It brings a depth to their knowledge,” she said. “They’re actually in the field making a difference with people who are in desperate need.”

The students will be conducting fundraisers in the next couple of months to cover the cost of the trip, roughly $525. Saint John’s Church No. 5 will provide food for the volunteers at a minimal cost, Marshall said.

Participants will also go through a variety of training in preparation for the trip. They’ll focus on long-term disaster relief, cross-cultural work, HIV/AIDS education, personal safety as well as learning about community resources and case management.

Marshall hopes the MSW program and residents of the Seventh Ward will continue to work together after the trip. For instance, she said, students could offer help with grant writing.

“I am so proud of the students for doing this,” she said. “Communities need to respond to communities.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08