New winter break service trip will aid Atlanta flood victims

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As GW students leave campus this December to enjoy Winter Break, holidays and time with family, a select group of individuals will be partaking in a different sort of break, helping victims of flooding in Atlanta.

The GW Office of Community Service is this year sponsoring a new Alternative Winter Break location and sending a group of 57 student leaders and participants to Georgia’s capital to help portions of that city in recovering from severe flooding it endured this past year.

“We will be going back to the roots of Alternative Breaks, focusing our efforts on immediate disaster relief and clean up.” Said Javedan Siddiqui, Alternative Winter Breaks leader. “As one of the national leaders in community service, GW is one of the first universities to volunteer to help with this effort.”

The Office of Community Service expects the trip to be similar to the Alternative Spring Break, which takes a group of students each year down New Orleans to assist in recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

This trip was organized in just a few days after the Office of Community Service staff realized that there was an immediate need for assistance in Atlanta recovering from the flooding, said Steven Pazan, another Alternative Winter Breaks leader. Pazan said he was contacted on a Thursday to help lead the trip and was trained for the trip a few days later.

While in Atlanta, trip participants will focus mainly on cleaning up residential neighborhoods of the city, focusing their efforts on cleaning out houses damaged by the floods in preparation for large scale rebuilding efforts that city officials plan to start implementing in the near future.

But participants will not only focus on community cleanup and rebuilding efforts, but also on learning more about Southern culture.

“We want to definitely teach the Atlanta and southern culture to GW.” Pazan said, “We get a diverse population of people going on these trips. If you want to help someone, you need to know where they come from.”

Trip organizers hope to visit notable sites around the Atlanta area, such as the Coca-Cola Bottling Factory and the Georgia Aquarium. Organizers said they hope that by exploring some of the Atlanta area, they will expose participants to the culture of region they are working to help revitalize.

“Education about Atlanta – its history, its people, its current state – and about community service in general will also be an integral part of our trip,” Siddiqui added.

The Atlanta trip is not the only one that the Office of Community Service will host this Winter Break. Students may also participate in trips to Ecuador or Honduras to work on education issues in those countries or to Peru to help with jungle conservation efforts.

Other trips in the United States include more excursions to New Orleans and Texas to help with recovery from Hurricane Katrina as well as a trip to Tennessee to work with Sudanese refugees.

The Atlanta trip will depart Jan. 2 and travel by coach bus to Georgia, where participants will remain until Jan. 9. Currently the Office of Community Service has 50 spots on the trip, at the cost of $300 per person, including transportation, meals and accommodations.

Registration for the trip will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 14 at 7 a.m. in Kogan Plaza. Students will be accommodated on a first come, first serve basis.

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