buildOn New York witnessed the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy at its worst. Glenda Hernandez, buildOn’s Senior Program Coordinator in New York, took ten of her students from Brooklyn’s Park Slope Collegiate High School to clean houses that were severely damaged in New Dorp, Staten Island.
Hernandez said her students spent four hours breaking down walls and removing wet furniture from basements in many of the houses. One of the New Dorp residents maxed out her credit card keeping her mother in a hotel because she didn’t want to risk having her stay at a shelter due to her delicate health. “The people were really grateful for the work that we did, and the students had the utmost compassion,” Hernandez said.
Staten Island’s New Dorp High School, the Red Cross and other local relief organizations spearheaded the intense community service project. When the students arrived to New Dorp, volunteers gave them cleaning supplies. But when went to the houses they witnessed a disaster. “It was complete chaos,” Hernandez said. Many of the houses were deemed inadequate to live in by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The volunteers ended up gutting houses filled with wet, dirty garbage and debris.
Ashanti Avery said the experience only reaffirmed her decision to serve her community. Avery is a buildOn member who lives in Red Hook, a Brooklyn neighborhood also affected by Sandy. Witnessing the damage made her realize how fortunate she was to help the people of New York. Despite not having running water or electricity until Tuesday, she and two of her buildOn peers from the neighborhood have been doing community service every day since the storm cleared. Currently, they are coordinating a dinner to raise money for the victims of Sandy.
Before going to Staten Island, Hernandez’s group participated in a community mapping exercise to assess the areas of New York that needed the most help, and then decided as a team where to serve. Next stop: Rockaway Beach and Coney Island.