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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

MARDI GRAS makes changes to spring break trip

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg
Mardi Gras has to change their plans for their trip.

Marquette University MARDI GRAS, or Making A Real Difference in Gulf Regions and Areas Surrounding, a student-run volunteer organization focused on disaster relief, had to make a recent change in preparation for their upcoming spring break trips to New Orleans, Panama City, Florida, and Rosharon, Texas.

Hannah Seeman, a senior in the College of Communication and MARDI GRAS event coordinator, said the organization had to change a site in the Panama City trip. 

“Upon discussion with other MARDI GRAS E-board members and trip coordinators and further research, we decided not to align ourselves with the site because it didn’t reflect the values of what MARDI GRAS stands for,” Seeman said.

Seeman said the organization Samaritan’s Purse who hosted the site was transparent and distinguished its beliefs in a “statement of faith” in a waiver. Signing it would force students to be in agreement with those beliefs, Seeman said. 

“One of their beliefs was something along the lines of believing homosexuality is wrong, which does not align with MARDI GRAS’ values,” Elise Olwig, a freshman in the College of Business Administration said, adding that she was glad this was caught early on in the planning process.

“It wasn’t as inclusive as we hold to our standards,” Seeman said. “Once we heard partnering with that organization was a potential breach of our values, we immediately mobilized and changed sites.”

Seeman said MARDI GRAS has already established other worksites and housing for participants.

Taylor said 28 students will be going on the Panama City trip. Thirty-five will be going to Rosharon and 63 will be going to New Orleans.

“MARDI GRAS as a whole does not affiliate with one religion,” Seeman said. “We want anybody and everybody to feel welcomed and comfortable.”

Seeman said the most important thing for MARDI GRAS participants and community members they engage with is for them to feel safe and comfortable.

“It only takes one member and we are going to make an honest and transparent change,” Seeman said.

Audrey Taylor, a senior in the College of Communication and vice president of finance for MARDI GRAS, said they are working with the St. Bernard Project, an organization they already work with in New Orleans for the new Panama City trip.

“We are excited to work with them in another city,” Taylor said.

Kathleen Becker, a junior in the College of Health Sciences and MARDI GRAS trip coordinator and group leader, said students will be participating in recovery service on a community-specific basis because communities are at different points in the recovery timeline.

Seeman said MARDI GRAS participants will be volunteering through physical labor activities, such as construction and gardening, but also through community outreach.

“We don’t believe in building something without heart behind it,” Seeman said. “It’s important to know who you’re doing it for and that we build relationships with members in the community.”

Marquette MARDI GRAS was founded by Stephanie Treffert Lumpkin after she was displaced from Loyola University New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Seeman said Treffert Lumpkin found a community at Marquette with similar values of empathy and active listening.

Seeman added that participants are not there to speak for the people they are helping, but they are there to listen to them.

“One of the MARDI GRAS values is active listening, which I find to be incredibly applicable in our interactions with homeowners, community members and especially one another,” Becker said. “Something many people quickly realize on MARDI GRAS trips is that you may travel across the country to give your time, but you will leave that place with a greater understanding of your role in humanity and a new definition of ‘home.’”

Louise Ehrhardt, a sophomore in the College of Education, said she wanted to go on the MARDI GRAS trip because she heard great things from previous participants and she is passionate about service.

“Oftentimes, we are too caught up in our own worries and forget about peoplee who are actually struggling in the world due to uncontrollable circumstances,” Ehrhardt said. “I think it’s great that Marquette students are given the opportunity to partake in a trip that is not only life-changing for the ones we are helping, but life-changing for the students as well.”

Ehrhardt said she is going on the Panama City trip and will be helping with damage caused by Hurricane Michael last Oct. 8 through 16.

“Although this is only one week of my life, the work I will do will impact the victims of Hurricane Michael for much longer,” Ehrhardt said. “Hopefully, it puts things into perspective for many students who are fortunate enough to never have to endure such troubles.”

Daniel Steeno, a senior in the College of Health Sciences and MARDI GRAS president, said the program has been the most important part of his college experience.

Steeno said building homes in Rosharon was an impactful experience for him on a previous trip.

“The work that we do is impacting real people, real children and real families,” Steeno said. “To know what we do down there is going to be someone’s home, a kid’s room and be a part of someone’s life forever — that’s the most impactful part for me.”

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