Maryel Cardenas Alternative Spring Break Reflection Day 2
The Alternative Spring Break Program (ASB) is an amazing opportunity to help people who have been directly impacted by Hurricane Sandy. The opportunity to be a participant in making a positive change in the lives of those left devastated by Hurricane Sandy, was what motivated me to apply for the ASB program. As I write this, I think about the two days that I have spent in The Rockaways so far. The most significant part of the first day for me, was when we arrived in The Rockaways which is located in Queens, NY. Having grown up in Queens, I know what life is like when it comes to residing within this borough. Nevertheless, I was taken aback when I arrived in this area of Queens that in my twenty years I had never visited before. Most of Queens is made up of buildings, but not the area of The Rockaways that we arrived to.
As I looked around all I saw was houses, houses that looked like they belonged to wealthy people. Yet, it is many of these houses that were in need of much reconstruction, and this is where I began to be confused. As I said, when I looked at these beautiful homes located right near the beach, I assumed the owners came from affluent backgrounds. So far, this trip has challenged this assumption, I have been able to hear about the kinds of families that lost their homes to Sandy, and it seems they’re not the rich people I thought they were. These individuals do have beautiful homes, but they were also left with very little after Sandy, and in the time since have used much of their money trying to fix their homes. Further, after having met a homeowner, I have come to understand that the monetary loses are not the only losses that take place after a natural disaster. I have learned that the emotional and psychological toll that a natural disaster can have on an individual can be just as taxing if not more.
Moreover, on the second day of this program, I was able to take part in the actual reconstruction of the house. We were given paint brushes and paint, then assigned a room to work on with other participants. I enjoyed painting, not just because of the activity itself but because of the environment I was in, the reason behind the activity, the impact it will have, and the people I was with. As I looked around, I knew that many of us could have been doing something else during our Spring Break, yet we choose to do be here. We choose to spend our break rebuilding a home because we understand that these families have waited long enough, and are in need of assistance. While I was painting, I felt happy to be participating in a physical activity that will result in tangible results.
Many times, when I engage in activities that I hope will better the community or raise awareness about an issue, the impact is uncertain. I have written petitions, attended rallies, protested, called my elected officials, but none of these have left me with results I can see. With the ASB program, I am able to see the immediate result of my work. This is not only gratifying, but it is a way to show the people who were hurt the most by Sandy that we care. Our work in this home will continue to benefit a family long after we leave, and this is what makes me the happiest.