NCV was formed in the summer of 2007, when students at Brandeis and Tufts University joined the ongoing relief effort to help revive New Orleans, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. The goal of the organization was to conduct service trips that combined physical labor with learning and community interaction and instilled a strong sense of connection and commitment to New Orleans in the participating students.
NCV’s co-founders, Jonah Peppiatt (Tufts) and Noah Kaplan (Brandeis), soon discovered that for both the city and the students, a week-long service trip was not enough to sustain this connection. Working with students at their respective schools, they restructured NCV as a program that engaged students in learning about New Orleans and planning a project that would help the city’s recovery. The project would span the academic year and culminate in a trip to the Gulf Coast. NCV students embarked on an ambitious plan to create New Orleans’s first complete health care database and corresponding telephone hotline in an effort to combat the escalating health care crisis.
On the ensuing 18-day trip to New Orleans, which took place in August 2009, NCV members met with several community and nonprofit organizations working on health care issues. At the trip’s end, the students agreed strategic planning was needed before continuing the organization’s work in New Orleans. NCV held several meetings that Fall to develop its strategy, and by November 2009 the members had reached two important conclusions:
1) While many organizations both inside and outside the city were working on health-related projects, there was a breakdown in communication between these entities; they did not talk to one another, did not share best practices, did not build partnerships, and had not developed an all-encompassing strategy for improving the health of the people of New Orleans.
2) The level of engagement with the New Orleans community that was necessary to have a lasting impact on the city’s health care crisis could not be achieved remotely — an NCV chapter in New Orleans was desperately needed.
1) NCV would form a chapter at Tulane University in New Orleans, where it had already built several strong relationships, and that chapter would take over the New Orleans health care initiative.
2) The focus of that initiative would no longer be on a health care database, but instead on building a health care coalition that included as many of the health care organizations and community groups in New Orleans as possible. The purpose of the coalition would be to develop a comprehensive strategy for improving the health of the city.
3) The Tufts and Brandeis chapters, while assisting in the establishment of the Tulane Chapter, would refocus their efforts on helping community organizations in Somerville, Medford, Waltham, and Boston.
4) NCV’s leadership would develop a detailed leadership training curriculum for all of its student members.
The achievement of these goals is ongoing. In June 2010, NCV hired Program Director Michal Shapiro through the Jewish Organizing Initiative Fellowship Program to oversee the organization’s work in the Boston area.
Since 2007, NCV has formed chapters at two universities (with a third chapter in the works); signed up over 50 student members; conducted four service trips to New Orleans; provided fundraising and PR support to the New Orleans Faith Health Alliance clinic; partnered with Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine to provide practicum opportunities for graduate students; sponsored a paper on the “digital divide” and its impact on New Orleans’ recovery; begun work on a health care information delivery coalition in that city, partnering with ViaLink, NolaFreeHealthCare and various community groups; organized an MS Walk and awareness campaign at Brandeis University; built a partnership with the Mystic Learning Center in Somerville, Massachusetts; and begun developing a training and experiential learning curriculum, titled “The NCV Year,” for its student leaders.
In 2010, NCV has taken on several new projects with an environmental focus. In the beginning of the Fall semester, the club partnered with the sustainable fashion cooperative, Of Rags, to organize an incredible concert and fashion show on the Brandeis University campus. The event featured clothing made by Of Rags and introduced the unique musical talents of Keeping Riley, who are touring alongside Of Rags throughout the semester. Additionally, the club has been hard at work putting together an energy barn raising event scheduled to take place in early December with help from Waltham Alliance to Create Housing and Students for Environmental Action. A barn raising is an all-out, one-day weatherization event. Weatherization is the process of making a home more energy efficient, for example by properly insulating, sealing vents & cracks, and replacing old window frames. And the process drastically reduces the home’s fuel use and energy bills. Over 25 volunteers will join NCV members during this community project which will bring together Brandeis students and Waltham residents for a fantastic cause.
All suited up and ready to get to work in the attic:
NCV students visit the infamous levee in the Lower Ninth Ward in 2008:
NCV students work on a community garden in the Gentilly neighborhood in 2008:
NCV member strikes a pose during the Of Rags fashion show in 2010:
NCV member caulking a window frame during the Weatherization Barn Raising in 2010: