On Monday, January 21, a group of students and volunteers from Cairn traveled to Staten Island, New York, to help rebuild homes that were lost in Hurricane Sandy. Each year Student Senate organizes a day of service on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This year, the students decided to look beyond the immediate community and help those still picking themselves up from the storm. Not only was the trip itself unique but the number of students and volunteers who attended set a new precedent for the annual Cairn Senate MLK Day of Service.
Working with the Church at the Gateway on Staten Island, the volunteers helped to rebuild some of the many homes that were destroyed due to the flooding. As they drove through the neighborhoods to reach the houses where they would work on they saw some of the most devastated areas. They saw large open areas of dirt where houses had been before being washed away. As they drove around they noticed a field with the roofs of houses lying in it, but there were no houses to be seen anywhere around. Joe Melendez, the lead volunteer coordinator and retired NYPD officer, explained that the roofs had been from homes a mile up the Island but had been washed into the field after the storm surge.
Many homes were either flattened or moved from their foundations. However, the homes that are still structurally intact are being rebuilt from the inside out. Due to the size of the Cairn group, they were able to split into teams and work on multiple houses. Much of the work centered on removing damaged interiors, rebuilding floors, insulating walls, and last but not least, reminding the people of Staten Island that the rest of the country has not forgotten about them and that hope still remains.
Despite going to the Island to help others, many of the students found themselves blessed by the resiliency of the human spirit and the strength God gives to His people. They met volunteers from all over the country, retired policemen, pastors, former members of the military, contractors, and many others. Greg Cawood, Student Senate President, summarized the experience this way: “There is something humbling about experiencing someone else’s suffering and loss while knowing that you can still go home at night to a warm meal and comfortable bed. We were reminded of our blessings and the hope that no matter what happens we are not alone.”
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