Students to take on Katrina Challenge

For many, there will be no beach party this Spring Break. Instead, students from across the nation are gathering to rebuild New Orleans.

Katrina Corps, a grass-roots effort, is hoping to bring 25,000 students to New Orleans from March 5th – April 6th, 2007, known as the Katrina Challenge.

The goal is to “cut the number of homes on the gutting waitlist by 50% – showing that together we can do what our government cannot,” said Fred Pfaff, Katrina Corps spokesman.

Recently, the Army Corps of Engineers extended their New Orleans home gutting deadline to August 27th, 2007. If your house is not gutted by Aug. 27th, 2007, your home will be bulldozed.

“The issue is that there are so many people dispersed across the country that they may actually not know about that deadline, and because there has been a decentralized gutting effort, they may actually not know how to get their name on a gutting list, so it is kind of unfathomable from the outside to picture how this system has been working,” Pam Murtaugh, Katrina Corps Management Team Leader, said.

New Orleans was severally damaged by Hurricane Katrina and is in dire need of help.

“New Orleans has been working one small group of volunteers at a time, there is no centralized effort, there is no FEMA doing the job of saying how do we gut the houses in the city in a fine way…the individual volunteer organizations have basically had to manage it down to a level that they can cope with because there is no one big organization set up to bring the city back,” Murtaugh said.

Katrina Corps is working as a feeder organization in hopes of taking care of New Orleans.

Once in New Orleans, teams of students will work as gutters with current relief organizations such as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and Rebuilding Hope in New Orleans (RHINO). A film will also be produced about the effort and aired online.

Katrina Corps was founded in November 2006 when six Americans, including Murtaugh, took a break from their day jobs to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, and while gutting a home, found a framed picture amongst the rubble. After clearing away the mud from the frame, a picture of Muhammad Ali emerged with the inscription, “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given, than to explore the power they have to change it…. IMPOSSIBLE IS NOTHING.” Over the years Katrina Corps has expanded and today is focused on the Katrina Challenge.

“For Katrina the greatest amount of aid goes to where there is the least need and the most likely return on investments, it is all about economics, not about people,” Murtaugh said. “We want to bring energy and sunshine from all over the country so that more can get done.”

MySpace.com has teamed up with Katrina Corps to help with advertising and promotion.

“MySpace is committed to being an online platform which our users can utilize to do good in the offline world,” a MySpace spokesperson said. “Supporting Katrina Corps allows us to offer our users a valuable way to take action and help others. It seemed like a no-brainer.”

Along with donating advertising, MySpace will launch a Katrina Corps profile with footage of the trip and blogs from volunteers.

“We want to help New Orleans come back; whatever we can do to facilitate that, we will. Our project is by the people for the people, we need a country to show up!” Murtaugh said.

Volunteers will have to pre-register to participate in order to be guaranteed housing.

Katrina Corps: www.katrinacorps.org

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