Forty students and staffers put their break to work.

Juniors Engy Gadelmawla and Jonathan Van Dongen are making the trip.

December 2015 – Instead of sleeping in or binge-watching shows on Netflix, 35 Drew University students are using winter break to rebuild homes in New Orleans.

The group, from the student-run Volunteer Resource Center, is teaming with Drew staffers on the volunteer effort, which is still needed 10 years after Hurricane Katrina struck the Big Easy. The Drewids will spend a week there before returning on Jan. 9.

The need for rebuilding this long after Katrina surprised trip organizer Engy Gadelmawla, a junior from Wachung, N.J. After all, the need for such help in her home state has subsided, three years after Superstorm Sandy hit.

Gadelmawla knows first-hand, though, that some problems are not easily overcome, having traveled to D.C. last year with other students to help residents deal with poverty, hunger and homelessness. The D.C. experience inspired her to join the Resource Center, and now she’s playing a leading role in the New Orleans trip. For example, she helped interview some 65 students who applied to participate.

“I’m so excited because I’ve never been to New Orleans—I’m excited to see the culture,” Gadelmawla said. “And working with the people there is going to be really great.”

Students raise more than $1,800 to cover expenses.

Students will work during the day, and have nights free to explore the local culture. The trip was set up through the St. Bernard Project and JetBlue provided free airfare for the volunteers, according to Gadelmawla.

To cover other expenses, students spent seven weeks fundraising. Some shook cans outside the Madison Stop and Shop, while others sold green and blue bracelets at campus basketball games. In addition, they reached out to Drew alumni through their webpage. In all, they raised more than $1,800.

“We’ve all been putting in so many hours, and I’m so proud of the whole group,” Gadelmawla said.