Julianne Marder Alternative Spring Break 2019

Today, I witnessed firsthand how climate change is directly impacting the earth and the people who inhabit it. I witnessed how a homeowner had to wait years for the government to assist her when she was in need. I witnessed how much work a cohesive team can accomplish together. I witnessed the strength and resilience of those who were affected by Superstorm Sandy.

Today, I met a homeowner, who resided in her New Jersey home for 28 years before Sandy. They raised her three children, built endless memories, and created her life in her home, prior to the storm. Their house faced serious water damage, which they were unable to repair alone. While the homeowner’s neighbors were able to apply and receive grants from the state to help with the damages to their homes, they was told she did not qualify. This lead to a battle in court, which took a few years, but resulted in them finally able to qualify for the grant. Before today, the homeowner had not been in her home in five years, and was temporarily living in the surrounding area. They felt alone with no help from anyone, that is before SBP began their process. Today was the first day for them being able to see a difference in her home and it is the beginning of a complete transformation of her home.

The fact that the homeowner had to take the government to court in order to get the state funding is terrible. I feel this is something that needs serious consideration. After a major storm, the community more than ever needs the government’s support in order to build their homes back up. The damage is devastating and people need to trust in the government for assistance when necessary. The fact that the state turned their back on them when they were in their time of need is something I do not understand. How does the government expect them to live without a home? The fact that her neighbors qualify for the grant, but not her does not make sense. I understand that the state needs to be very specific and precise about their funding and grants. However, this person very clearly had much damage in her home as a result of the storm. They had much damage done to the ceiling, walls, and floors of her home, along with the items inside. I personally have a hard time understanding the reasoning behind the state watching a citizen struggle without the assistance they rightfully deserve.

Because it was SBP’s first day at the home, we were able to see a truly transformative experience. We helped empty out the house full of damaged items that they no longer wanted and got to see a major difference in the house overall. While there still was much work to do, the homeowner left the house with a smile on her face and hope in their eyes. It was apparent that our help today gave this deserving woman hope that SBP will assist her greatly in recreating her home. That moment of gratitude and thanksgiving made all of the hard work worth it. To be able to give someone a small glimmer of hope in this painful, long journey was something I will always remember. Before this last day, it was hard to see the difference we were making on the houses. I painted for the first two days and while that was rewarding, I did not know how much I really helped in the project. Now, seeing the person who has battled for this home for years, leave with hope for the future because of the work my team and I did for them, showed me just how powerful SBP’s work really is. Being able to directly impact someone’s life for the better was amazing to experience, and I am so glad I attended Alternative Spring Break!