Restoring more than buildings

Six years ago, Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on southern Louisiana. Over a seven-day span over the summer, two Northern Kentucky University students travelled to New Orleans to film a documentary on the city’s recovery and how much work remains to revive the city.

Stephanie Mathena, an electronic media and broadcasting senior, and Kelsey Robinson, a criminal justice senior and New Orleans native, volunteered under Operation Nehemiah to help reconstruct a home that was damaged by Katrina.

Mathena and Robinson spent their days handling simple tasks, such as putting up drywall, sanding staircases and painting the exterior. “Without that small work, they can’t do the rest,” Mathena said.

Between rebuilding the house, Mathena and Robinson shot footage for their documentary. “We focused on New Orleans because the city is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina to this day,” Robinson said.

The documentary, “Hurricane Katrina: Volunteer Yourself,” is an Honors Capstone project with the intent to convey the importance of volunteering in communities.
Mathena said the generosity of the volunteers amazed her. “They don’t even live in this country and they care,” said Mathena, speaking of volunteers from England.

Mathena interviewed a pastor from the Lower Ninth Ward, one of the poorer sections of New Orleans. “The water stood 13 feet inside his church,” Mathena said. With the help of volunteers, the church was completely restored.

Robinson views her volunteer efforts differently. “I didn’t just travel to a foreign city and help them recover after a hurricane,” Robinson said. “I traveled to my home and helped New Orleans regain some of the spirit and life it lost after this devastating disaster.”

Mathena and Robinson’s documentary focuses specifically on college students and youth in the community. It will premiere in Griffin Hall’s Digitorium some time in December. The proceeds will go to Operation Nehemiah to support future volunteer efforts.

To watch the preview visit Vimeo.

Hurricane Katrina: Volunteer Yourself from Norse Film Society on Vimeo.