This program is organized by Duke staff in collaboration with DukeEngage.
May 24 - July 20
Volunteering with diverse non profit organizations, focused on a broad set of issues related to public health, including health/healthcare services, policy, the environment, education and social welfare.
Ashley Brown Burns, Africana Studies Program and Public Policy, Gettysburg College
The unprecedented devastation of Hurricane Katrina was widespread. The Greater New Orleans Community Data Center estimated $135 billion in total damages from the storm. The city and Gulf Coast region are still in recovery, and will be for some time.
Louisiana faced enormous challenges in its ability to provide quality and accessible health care to its residents long before the onslaught of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. These disasters turned an inadequate system into a full-blown health emergency. After 7 years of rebuilding, the state’s health system is facing not only revival, but also transformation.
New Orleans is truly a city of conundrums. With substantial population decline after the storm, New Orleans is currently one of the fastest growing US cities. It, however, is also estimated to have the 2nd highest rate of homelessness in the US. Simultaneously, the educational system is in shock, overhaul and renewal. New Orleans could be considered a beacon of inequality, with a metro area gini coefficient measure of .478, higher than the national average. In addition, 27% percent of the population is poor, although this number has been steady over time, rather than increasing. Still, 42% of the children in New Orleans live in poverty. The strained healthcare system is in crisis and deep recovery mode after the storm. Yet, since Katrina, the local Oschner Medical Center rebounded and has been named one of America’s best hospitals by US News and World Report in 2010-2011.
The city continues to thrive while upon shaky infrastructure. There is a diverse need in New Orleans for genuine concern and interest in its challenges related to public health, including education, health/healthcare services, policy, the environment, and social welfare. Duke Engage in New Orleans students will serve with organizations committed to addressing such continuing issues.
Duke Engage in New Orleans students will volunteer with a broad collection of organizations, many with a focus on public health. Former participants have volunteered in charter schools, educational and nutrition programs, health policy research, child abuse advocacy, domestic violence awareness, environmental sustainability, children’s health and well-being, youth mentoring, community outreach, HIV/AIDS advocacy, and in a range of other capacities. In addition to the full-time community partner placement, there will be two to three additional one-time group service commitments during the summer, such as working in a soup kitchen or doing physical rebuilding through local organizations.
Language/Other Prerequisites: None
Reflection Sessions: Students are expected to participate in weekly group reflection sessions with the program director and site coordinator. Also, students will interact with community partners at required weekly group meals. There will be opportunities to participate in enrichment and service activities celebrating the transformation of this unique city. Students are also required to engage frequently with the program blog.
Neighborhood: Although students will travel all over the city for program activities, the primary residence will be on the Loyola University campus in the Uptown/Riverbend area of New Orleans. This area has a rich blend of student/college life and a vibrant local community. Therefore, students will both access campus facilities like the library, post office, gym, and campus security as well as local attractions. Access to transit and day-to-day amenities are abundant. Audubon park spans this area and offers great outdoor space for entertainment and fitness. Students will be in walking distance to the streetcar, bus, local banks, churches, stores, restaurants, and entertainment.
Housing and Accommodations: Students will most likely be housed in suite-style apartments in Carrollton Hall at Loyola University. The units consist of a shared living room (common area), bathroom, and kitchen. The bedroom are mostly single-bed accommodations. All suites have adjustable room temperature controls and ethernet/wireless internet. Students living in Carrollton hall also have access to a laundry room and a TV lounge. There will be access to the campus fitness facilities, and library access can be arranged upon request.
Meals: Students will be given a stipend to cover the costs of meals. They will be able to purchase groceries on a regular basis. While on campus, students tend to cook most of their own meals or eat in one of the on-/off-campus restaurants. Most students bring a self-packed lunch to the community partner site. Program staff will also provide the weekly group meal and occasional snacks for reflection sessions. In general, there will be a broad selection and availability of food options and plenty of opportunities for students enjoy the famous New Orleans cuisine.
Communication: Wireless access is available in all academic buildings and residence halls on campus. It is recommended that students bring a laptop to New Orleans, and some students may be asked to bring their laptops to their service placement. Also, program leaders utilize cell phones, email, and text messaging to assist in coordinating the weekly calendar with students.
Transportation: Students will be expected mostly to use the New Orleans RTA for their travel needs, especially during service hours to and from the service placement sites. DukeEngage will provide an unlimited transit pass to facilitate this need. Some students will be able to walk to their placements sites or will be driven daily by DukeEngage staff, while the majority will commute via public transportation. Commuting to placement sites may take from 10 mins up to an hour, based on the location and mode of transit. Most program events will be accessible by public transit. As needed, DukeEngage will also provide transportation for enrichment/immersion. Staff will coordinate transportation to group service activities and the grocery store. During non-work hours, students have access to the streetcar and bus, a convenient method of travel from Loyola to various points of interest. Students may bring personal vehicles, although this is not encouraged.
Volunteer Placement Logistics: Students are required to volunteer at the community partner site 35-40 hours a week, depending on the needs of their community partner. Students are expected to volunteer Monday-Friday, 8:30am-5pm, although schedules do vary slightly among placement sites. Some placement sites will primarily consist of office-based volunteering while others will require working hands-on with the population served by the organization. Some placements may occasionally demand evening or weekend commitments. They may also call for off-site community outreach or fieldwork.
Students will learn more about community partner placement opportunities during the interview process for the Duke Engage New Orleans program. Former students have volunteered with organizations such as Children’s Hospital, Crescent House, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, American Red Cross, N.O. Children’s Advocacy Center, Magnolia School, and the NO AIDS task Force among many available sites. Once selected, students can expect to individually meet with Duke Engage program staff to discuss students’ interests and experience. At the program director’s discretion, community partners will review student resumes and conduct interviews. This process will shape final matching outcomes.
Opportunities for Autonomy / Private Space: DukeEngage students are required to attend all group programming. Students will have program commitments about two nights per week (reflection and group meal). In addition, there will be service or enrichment scheduled, mostly on Saturdays, during the day. Occasionally, students may have evening and weekend commitments with their service placements. The remaining time during the week and weekends will be free for students to relax or explore the city on their own. There will an even blend of expected group and community interaction as well as private downtime.
Miscellaneous: While New Orleans is still experiencing the difficult aftershocks of Katrina and Rita, and, recently, Isaac, the city offers students a unique chance to serve in a system with a real need for support. This comes along with the incredible opportunity to immerse themselves in a rich, vibrant community. Duke Engage students in New Orleans will help to rebuild, but they will also find an unforgettable experience. They will listen to street musicians, possibly dance to brass bands in Jackson Square, and stroll in neighborhoods that reflect the city’s unique blend of French, Spanish, and Caribbean roots. They will eat beignets in crowded cafes and make new connections. They will consider the ethics and morals of service, community health and well-being, rebuilding, and natural disasters. Mostly, though, they will fall in love with a city full of contradictions and plans.