Keep the Biloxi trip in perspective

Although the trip was several weeks ago, there has been renewed discussion of the Kent State United for Biloxi project.

It’s no secret the trip was disorganized at times, and many people we’ve talked to have told us so.

Student affairs reporter Aman Ali reported this as he was traveling with the volunteers.

One example of the second day of the trip, when a group of volunteers were assigned to lay drywall at the home of the Rev. Dong Phan, a Roman Catholic priest at the Church of the Martyrs in east Biloxi. About 20 volunteers came ready to work but were unable to because of permit restrictions.

“Father Phan already has a building permit,” said Joel Newburn, senior political science major who was in charge of the drywall crew. “But we can’t start until we get an electrician to sign off on the permit. Father Phan thought an electrician was coming.”

On top of that, the crew had no drywall supplies on site to work with, Ali reported. The crew had to wait almost two hours for an electrician to inspect Phan’s home and three hours for supplies to arrive.

“This could be more organized,” said Julie Meek, senior at Kent Roosevelt High School. “But there’s so many people here, it’s almost like it’s impossible.”

Many of the other work sites were also delayed because of missing supplies. Volunteers were doing repair work at multiple homes throughout the Vietnamese community in Biloxi. The residents were pleased with what the Kent State students were doing.

“After the hurricane, my neighborhood looked like a cemetery,” said Phan Kiet, whose home had roof work done on it. “I lived here for 30 years – my God. We are so thankful for all the help.”

That last quote from Kiet is paramount.

We need to remember that the whole trip had one purpose – to help out victims affected by Hurricane Katrina. And the opinions of the people who received the help of Kent State students are the ones who really matter.

Yes, the trip was disorganized at times, and it is our responsibility to let you know about that just as much as we should be telling you the good that students did.

We’re not cheerleaders for Kent State – we just present the facts to you. Then you decide.

But from what Ali gathered, most students had a memorable experience working on relief efforts in the Gulf Coast. Although the minority opinion should be represented, it should not bring down the entire meaning that caused the trip.

Some things could have been handled better. But no one is an expert in organizing disaster relief in such a short amount of time. Just look at the U.S. government for example. For just a handful of people to plan travel arrangements, food and housing for about 400 students in a disaster area is amazing.

People sacrificed their usual Spring Break plans to do their part for others, and this in itself is just something we have not heard a lot of lately. The general response has been a positive one, and finally, a little positive plug for this university.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board. Aman Ali, student affairs reporter and editorial writer, was not involved in the editorial writing process.