At least 150 students from Dalhousie and King’s universities boarded buses bound for Biloxi, Miss., Friday night to help rebuild areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

 

As snow fell through the darkening night, six buses prepared to leave the campus for the two-day journey. Dozens of students milled around the parking lot, making final preparations to spend their study week working for Habitat for Humanity.

 

Jesse Howatt, a community design student at Dalhousie, is making his second trip to the region ravaged by Katrina in 2005.

 

Last year, he joined a group of about 50 students who travelled to New Orleans to help rebuild a “musicians’ village” in the badly hit capital of Louisiana.

 

“We got to work with some of the homeowners,” he said, noting the residents have been touched by the support coming all the way from Canada.

“I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, but once you’re down there and start working, it feels great,” he said. “The only skills I have are the ones I picked up last year.”

Metro caught up with organizer Aaron Vomberg as he raced about Howe Hall, herding dozens of students onto the buses. It’s his third home-building trip to the U.S. south. The first year, it was just 18 students in minibuses; last year, it was 54 on a bus. When he put out the word for this year’s trip, he was overwhelmed by nearly 200 applicants.

“We could have taken another two buses,” he said.

“Biloxi was probably the hardest hit area by Hurricane Katrina and is probably the most susceptible to other hurricanes.”

Vomberg, who is studying architecture and urban planning at Dal, didn’t know what his team would be working on this year, only that all 150 members would be together.