Students opt for Sandy relief over vacation

By Kanwal Pervaz • Nov 23rd, 2012 • Category: News

When Hurricane Sandy tore across the Northeastern seaboard in the days before Halloween, the damage it would cause could not have been anticipated. Sandy’s destruction and impact to the city’s infrastructure caused schools across the five boroughs to close down for a full week, leaving students who were not personally affected with a choice: take the week off or devote their time to those who needed help. Many chose the latter.

Mike Papas, 21, of Astoria, Queens, took several friends with him to the storm ravaged community of Rockaway Beach. A psychology major at Hunter College, Papas commutes to the Rockaway Beach neighborhood three times a week to work with his father at his auto shops. “I wanted to help, and to see everyone at Rockaway Beach, it really does kill you,” he said. He continued to describe the houses he had seen, which were completely torn apart due to the storm.

Hosika Tachibana is another Hunter student who worked alongside the Red Cross and other relief organizations in the Far Rockaways. A political science major from Elmhurst, NY, Tahibana, 23, said she “wanted to make a difference and felt this was the way to do it.”

Evacuation centers were created in boroughs throughout the city. Kamran Muhammad  commutes from the Midwood neighborhood in South Brooklyn  and works full time. He devoted his week of no school or work to volunteering in shelters at Lehman College, in the Bronx, and at FDR High School in Brooklyn.

Many students have ties to these communities. Even if they do not personally live in them, they often have friends or family who do. “Howard beach is like my second home,” said Tom Wengler, 21, of Glendale, Queens. “ I felt personally attached to it even though I wasn’t affected.”

A media studies major at Hunter College, Wengler says he felt the need to go with friends to go to heavily affected homes in Broad Channel to donate clothes and help those in need. After he made his donations, Wengler stayed in the area for hours afterward to help a friend and her mother dismantle their storm-ravaged home, salvaging whatever they could from the wreckage.

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