Aastha Minocha – SEEDS, 2015

SEEDS (Students Engaging in, and Enacting a Dialogue on Service) is an organization that aims to do more than just volunteering. It focuses on building relationships; gaining knowledge; instating solidarity; and bringing experiences back to the University of Richmond. The organization has two spring break trips—one to West Virginia and the other to Louisiana. I went to West Virginia during my freshman year and Louisiana during my sophomore year, in the capacity of a participant. This year, however, I was in SEEDS leadership and had the opportunity to go to Louisiana once again.

We spent the first half of our time in Dulac and the second half in New Orleans. The first half of our trip focused on the Houma Nation (a Native American tribe) that is struggling to get federal recognition in the US, even though they have been around for hundreds of years. We had the opportunity to meet the former chief of the Houma Nation, and her husband who is a doctor. They both discussed the struggles they have gone through, the pain that their people have suffered both emotionally and medically and the fights they have had with political parties and the big oil companies. It was heartbreaking hear the stories of how people have lost their land and as a result have started losing their identity; how their water has been contaminated by oil companies leading to health concerns for the tribe and how still the government isn’t recognizing the ill effects; and how they have been displaced because of Hurricane Katrina and aren’t truly being helped by the government. During our time at Dulac we were also able to help built a house, do some gardening and create a new Dulac sign for a community center. This gave us the ability to get to know one-another better and understand the region we were working in.

The second part of our trip was based in New Orleans, and we stayed at the Hands-on Community Center. The main topics of focus were environmental concerns, race and racism, health disparities, the educational system, and how Hurricane Katrina and the breaking of the levee resurfaced existing problems in all these areas. A combination of dialogue, service, smells, sights and lectures from influential individuals (e.g. Pulitzer prize winning journalist Bob Marshall’s talk on environmental degradation) allowed us to build a perspective on the current state of things in Louisiana.

Having been a part of SEEDS for three years has been really meaningful to my educational and personal experience. I am really thankful to PAM for covering the cost of my trip for this year. Though, I wont be able to participate in SEEDS again next year as a result of a number of other commitments, I will definitely participate in any on-campus events they have and will continue to disseminate the knowledge I acquired so I can bring my experience back to Richmond.


Aastha Minocha

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