I can’t believe that the “What A Disaster” team’s experience will finally start tomorrow!! I’ve been thinking about this trip since proposing it last spring and now it’s finally here. I am so excited to engage in another service trip. Four years ago, I traveled to New Orleans for VENAVER (“Come and See”), my high school’s equivalent of Alternative School Break. It was during this experience that I became interested in disaster relief and recovery. The team did various relief projects around the city, met inspiring community members who worked to rebuild their communities, and toured New Orleans to see the remaining damage five years after the storm. I think the image still stuck in my mind is the houses with Xs on the doors from the initial search and rescue efforts.
I don’t know what quite to expect in Ocean and Monmouth Counties. Although I’ve been on the East Coast since Hurricane Sandy, I have only been to the Jersey Shore once so I can’t fathom what the areas look like about a year and a half after Hurricane Sandy. I am interested to compare my experiences from New Orleans to that of New Jersey and learn firsthand about how the government–specifically FEMA–responded before and after the storm. While the team has done research and discussed it as a group, hearing accounts firsthand always seem to paint a better picture of the situation on the ground. As one of the more seasoned ASBers on the trip, I am looking forward to guiding rookie ASB members during this trip. All of my VENAVER, ASB, and BreakAway experiences have been transformative and full of direct service, wonderful reflections, new friendships, inside jokes, laughter, and overall rejuvenation and renewal. As a result, I can’t wait to see what this What A Disaster! experiences has in store!!