Rebuilding Vermont: Blending Service with Learning to Aid in Vermont Recovery
- By Carol Frances Williams Howe
When Tropical Storm Irene hit Vermont, leaving a trail of devastation in her path, students, faculty and staff at the University of Vermont began asking: “How can we help?” Within one week, an academic service-learning course had been created (inspired by colleagues in New Zealand dealing with the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes). Over the past year, this course has engaged 40 students in disaster relief volunteerism while concurrently introducing them to disaster management practices through an academic lens.
On Green Up Day, May 5, students from "Rebuilding Vermont" joined Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin in the kick-off for the "Green Up to Recovery" initiative by helping with landscaping projects at Weston's Mobile Home Community -- a community that was devastated by Irene and is just beginning to populate with returning residents. This was the last of three full-group service days dedicated to helping Irene-affected communities continue their recovery this spring. Read the story as covered by Fox 44.
On May 7, students from the spring semester class presented their service-learning projects to members of the campus community as well as external community members, many of whom served as partners for these projects. Projects for the spring semester included:
- Developing Irene case studies for the VT Strong website, in order to highlight successful approaches to response and recovery for future planning.
- Working with a homeowner in Waterbury to support the process of rebuilding his home, from construction planning and permitting to preparing the home for renovations.
- Working with Rebuild Waterbury to develop resources for mobile home owners on the recovery process, as well as planning spring clean-up events along the Winooski River and with local residents.
- Building a resource section for the Central Vermont Long Term Recovery Committee website; while also helping a Berlin resident to move into her new mobile home and planning group service projects at Weston’s mobile home community.
- Partnering with the “Starting over Strong” program to run a wellness retreat for both Irene survivors and those who are working in the recovery process (case managers, volunteers, etc.).
- Interning with FEMA and United Way’s 2-1-1 to support flood recovery processes, including the development of public outreach materials and resources.
Students in this class spent time during their last class session articulating the most important lessons learned about disaster recovery process. View a short video about those lessons learned. For more information about this course, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.