University of Calgary

Exploring food and justice in New Orleans

UToday HomeFebruary 17, 2012

By Cheryl Rowland

Rebca Zawde (left) and Brittany Vine are fans of trips organized through the university’s Centre for Community-Engaged Learning (CCEL). Photo by Erin KaipainenRebca Zawde (left) and Brittany Vine are fans of trips organized through the university’s Centre for Community-Engaged Learning (CCEL). Photo by Erin KaipainenA group of students travel to New Orleans next week with the university’s Centre for Community-Engaged Learning (CCEL) to experience firsthand the devastating effects of Katrina—the hurricane that ravaged the city in 2005—and to understand some of the issues around rebuilding the city.

Students will work with an alternative education project and commercial urban garden, Our School at Blair Grocery in the Lower Ninth Ward to learn learn about some of the obstacles to New Orleans’ revitalization, including racism and food security. They’ll also contribute to rebuilding efforts with the St. Bernard Project, volunteer with the Second Harvest Food Bank, and visit organizations that support the local food movement in New Orleans.

“This trip really lines up with what I’ve been working towards in university and hopefully it will help me make some decisions about my future,” says fourth-year social work student Rebca Zawde.

This trip is just one part of a larger Calgary Serves program run by the Centre for Community-Engaged Learning. Set up as a series of co-curricular service-learning programs, Calgary Serves seeks to actively involve students in their own learning process and incorporates lessons such as teamwork, leadership, and communication into real life experiences.

Calgary Serves also runs two Reading Week programs within Calgary; one working with at-risk youth in the city, and the other giving students a chance to learn about homelessness through a partnership with The Mustard Seed. In May, 24 students will also travel to Chira Island in Costa Rica to learn about community-based rural tourism.

Brittany Vine, a third-year development studies student, got involved with the CCEL in her first year of university as a part of the Calgary Serves Reading Week Program with The Mustard Seed. Now, she’s helping plan the New Orleans trip.

“I think these kinds of trips are very important to a well-rounded student experience. It allows students from multiple disciplines to connect and learn with the real world.”

Calgary Serves allows students to learn skills outside their chosen disciplines that will assist them beyond graduation. Research has shown that students who are involved in service-learning as undergraduates are more likely to be engaged in volunteerism and non-profit work.

While in New Orleans from Feb. 20-26, the students will be blogging and posting photos. Follow their activities and experiences on the Calgary Serves blog.

For more information about Calgary Serves or the CCEL, contact