Youth Groups Bring Hammers and Swings

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Following are some of the relief efforts conducted by national organizations in the areas affected by the hurricanes:

YouthBuild USA: Hundreds of Youthbuild participants and alumni plan to work in Gulfport, Miss., along the Gulf of Mexico. The organization hopes to combine its biggest commodity – young, trained construction workers – with the resources and clients of other programs to fix 300 sites this year.

The more than $3 million project will be financed through AmeriCorps grants, a $75,000 contribution from The Home Depot Foundation, and whatever other funding can be raised by YouthBuild USA, which supports, coordinates and advocates for the federally funded Youthbuild programs.

National Association of Service and Conservation Corps: NASCC represents 100 corps programs in 40 states that engage youth in full-time community service projects. Ten NASCC-affiliated programs sent a total of 335 staff members and volunteers to help on projects, including debris removal, blue-tarping roofs, mold remediation, and shelter and volunteer security patrols.

KaBoom!: The Chicago-based nonprofit advocates for and helps install play spaces for youth. It developed Operation Playground to build or refurbish 100 play areas in the regions affected by the storms. An anonymous donor in Mississippi pledged to match all donations, up to a total of $500,000. As of late August, the group had raised $351,600 and had completed 20 playgrounds in Louisiana and Mississippi.

National Youth Leadership Council: President Jim Kielsmeier employed a tried-and-true council strategy, the WalkAbout model, which he developed in 1982 to use in the summer to link experiential service projects with academic skill development. He says it achieves the three goals he had in mind for youth leadership in the hurricane region: emergency preparedness, summer schools, and youth sharing experiences from their communities.

With financial support from State Farm Insurance, the council installed WalkAbout programs at five sites: two in New Orleans, two in Mississippi and one in Texas. At each site, youth participants survey the damage and the needs of the communities, map the situation using community mapping tools, and design service projects that will address the problems.

Save the Children: The international charity impressed many with its commitment to youth services in the region. It got summer camps running before the city had even reached a decision to do the same. Save the Children has also planned after-school and school restoration programs throughout the Gulf Coast and is training children and parents on preparedness tactics for future storms.