Columban team hasn’t forgotten New Orleans

Zachary Baehr
August 9, 2010

Five years ago this month, Hurricane Katrina and the flooding that followed severely damaged large areas of New Orleans and the surrounding region.

House in New Orleans

A group of volunteers helping rebuild a house in New Orleans.

Today volunteers are still helping rebuild homes.

The St. Columban Youth Charity Association was organized in the Los Angeles area to set up mission trip opportunities for high school students and young adults. One such trip led 12 people to spend Aug. 1-7 in New Orleans.

John Chang is the young adult coordinator for the association and has made four trips to the area. He said 12 people have spent the week divided between two houses in New Orleans, one in Mid City and one in West Bank.

“At this house we are doing wood panel flooring and some other minor carpentry work, and at the other house they are doing similar structural work, flooring, drywall and painting,” Chang said.

A group of young adults traveled to New Orleans to help the poor rebuild their homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

A group of young adults traveled to New Orleans to help the poor rebuild their homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

He said some of the houses, like the one he is helping with, were actually built on a foundation about five-feet high, but the flood waters in the area reached seven feet high after the levies broke following Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.

“Some people would start fixing (their houses) and they would run out of money,” Chang said. “Some don’t have money at all. Some are disabled, elderly, or low-income, so those people are the ones that still have houses here today that are not livable.”

Columban Father Tony Mortell established the youth organization during his mission time in Los Angeles. Different groups make trips to New Orleans and San Antonio. In New Orleans, the group works with Operation Helping Hands, a program of Catholic Charities in New Orleans.

For more background on the association, read the story in the May 2009 issue of Columban Mission (page 12).