Monday, January 28, 2013

Rockaway: Winter Break Installment #2

This post gives an outline of what the My Heart Belongs to Rockaways (MHBR) volunteers did during our winter break volunteer trip. It also includes personal testimonials from the volunteers, which summarize their experience and chronicle their time in Rockaway, NY.

General outline of what the My Heart Belongs to Rockaways volunteers did during our trip:

Day 1- Ren, Jingo and Allie (Team Delta) : dug out* Uncle James' house on 101st street. Angie and Demetria (Team JetBlue) arrive in New York
Day 2-  MHBR volunteers (Allie, Angie, Demetria, and Jingo) 'demo-ed'* a house on 101st street.
Day 3- MHBR volunteers built a fence for the Mahoney-Schneider family on 131st street. Biker Mike, Myles Byrne, and Ryan Byrne also helped build the fence.
Day 4- MHBR volunteers along with Myles and Ryan Byrne dug out Randi Savron's front yard
Day 5- MHBR volunteers drylocked part of the Mahoney-Schneider house and enjoyed a night out in NYC
Day 6- MHBR volunteers, along with residents, cleared out and installed insulation in Mike's house on 101st street, followed by a night in Staten Island. We also got to ride the Staten Island Ferry!
Day 7- MHBR volunteers cleared out/removed debris from the Mahoney-Schneider family's backyard. Later that night we accompanied the family to the neighborhood event 'Little North Pole'.
Day 8- MHBR volunteers and family painted the fence. MHBR volunteers left that evening (Christmas Eve)

*Dug out/dig out - to remove sand, dirt, debris (of all shapes and sizes imaginable), etc from an area.
*Demo-ed/demo - to demolish/ remove any contaminated portions of a house; includes tearing down sheet rock, insulation, and any other parts of a wall that have sustained water/mold damage.

Personal testimonials from MHBR volunteers:

From Jingo:
       My name is Jingo and I am an International student from Taiwan. This is actually my fifth month here in the US. To be honest, I had never thought about going to New York, let alone volunteering. I still remember when I met Allie on campus after Alison Thompson's speech, where she explained the volunteer trip to Rockaway. I really had no idea what she was talking about, but when I heard the word "volunteer" I didn't have a second thought- I said "Count on me". Therefore, when Ms. Jensen told me she was going to donate my flight ticket, it made the dream become more real.
    I could tell that this was the most meaningful trip I had in the US so far. I really learned a lot. For example, I now know how to build a fence. Also, I learned how to demo a house and what to be concerned about while doing it. We were not only there to help, but we also learned important lessons.

From Demetria:
           Everyone heard about what happened in the Far Rockaway and had moved past it as if everything was fine now. Until Allison Rodgers, a former classmate, reassured that things were not fine and she took action immediately after visiting. She recruited people she felt was serious about volunteering for this place she now knew as a second home. I was lucky enough to be a part of this moment to give back to others without even knowing how bad things truly were.
                It was my first time ever being on a airplane in my life, I was nervous and excited at the same time during takeoff. We landed in New York not to visit and site see but to give our time to something very important. While being in the Far Rockaway a lot of things were brought to my attention that weren't being talked about on the news or from my family members that live in New York. The day after Angie and I got to the Rockaways we took a walk down the beach along with Allison and Jingo to see how bad things really were. I had heard it looked like a bomb had went off and that saying was by far the best way to describe things, things were not perfect. Homes that families had been living in for decades, needed to be demolished and built from scratch because there was nothing left. Passing by one of the homes you literally could see that it was only standing by the two beams that the house was originally built with. It was devastating to see that people had nowhere to call home or to even live anymore.
                This touched me personally because I could never in a million years imagine this happening to my family until I visited the Rockaways. It made me realize that most people will not care about your problems as long as their life is fine and a saying that comes to me is "out of sight, out of mind." That quote was exactly what was occurring with people who had only heard about it and not seen what I had saw. This made me beyond angry and disappointed in the human race because we will care and help for awhile and then put the people in our own country on the back burner. Don't get me wrong there were some very positive things that came about which included the Mahoney-Schneider family. I have never seen a family so strong, they almost had everything completely wiped away but still smile through it all. They are still rebuilding as much as they can and it was very inspiring to see a family such as this, they had not lost hope. They also had opened their home up to volunteers they had never met before and provided meals to us, by Day 2 we were family and it had become my second home.
                 We went on through the Rockaways helping people by digging out alley ways, yards, doing demolition, dry locking, putting up insulation, and doing anything that we were asked to do.  Team Delta and Team JetBlue also built a fence on Day 3 along with Mike and two other volunteers by the name of Ryan and Myles. Ryan and Myles were awesome, they were just walking down the beach and asked us did we need help, they helped in every way they could to get to the goal of building this fence. This in a way made me realize there are other people who want to help and that not all hope was lost in the human race, some people just don't know what is going on and we need to get the word out there.
                 I personally have other aspirations and hopes in life than being a professional volunteer but I definitely see why people aspire to do that job. It is definitely necessary and needed in today's society. I plan to make volunteering a part of my life because if nobody else will do it I will. This trip to the Rockaways just showed me that other people in the world need help and we as people should be willing to help as much as we can when there is devastation and any other way. When volunteering, it should be a selfless act and just do it as you see fit to do because it is helps others to realize all hope is not lost.
                In today's society, people dedicate their time to a lot of things besides volunteering. Most 20 year olds put time in things other than volunteering, no matter how important it is. For me, this trip to the Rockaways helped me to balance the important and not-so-important factors in life. Also, it helped me realize that my time is important and it needs to go to important things throughout life. I can't wait to visit the Rockaways again and to give my time to restoring my home away from home. It was inspiring to help people in their of need and to just make a difference in someone's life. My heart truly belongs to the Rockaways. 

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