Disaster Politics: Assessing the Impact on Student Relief Workers in Post-Katrina New Orleans

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Volunteering has long played an important role in American society, and has emerged as a focal point for academic inquiry. Studies have addressed the impact of volunteers on communities, explored the reasons why Americans volunteer, and considered the effects on volunteers themselves. Following Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, a wave of migratory volunteers flooded to the Gulf Coast, to fill a void left by unsatisfactory performances from local, state, and federal officials, as well as more established relief organizations. These volunteers were heavily comprised of undergraduate college students who spent portions of their winter, spring, or summer breaks gutting houses and aiding in relief efforts. In the three years since the Hurricane ravaged the Gulf Coast and the levees failed to protect the city of New Orleans, precious few studies have examined the effects of working in New Orleans on these volunteers. This study attempts to address this topic, by examining the impacts of short-term volunteerism on college students working in post-Katrina New Orleans. Through pre- to post-survey analysis, this study discovers sginificant emotional, political, and life goal effects on students as a result of their experiences as relief workers in New Orleans.


Caroline Heldman and Larry Caldwell




Walter P. Gerken Fellowship

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