First Day!

After yesterday’s very exciting arrival to Newark, I spent all night wondering how prepared I actually was for the job my team had set out to do. Here I was, spending my spring break trying to help those who lost their homes during Sandy by helping with the rebuilding and restructuring of their homes but, the last thing I know about is home improvement and construction. How large of a difference can I make and how much of assistance can I really be? Last night I was ready but anxious and nervous for the start of what I know will be an amazing experience.

As a New Yorker Sandy, although close to home, had no immediate impact on my family directly. I remember being on campus for the storm and thinking that the flooding rains and speedy winds…and the black out…were so powerful, scary, and impeding but could never possibly imagine  the reality of what was occurring on the Jersey Shore. It’s shocking and mind boggling how large of an impact Sandy truly had. Today, almost a year and a half later, the effects are still present as some homes remain abandoned and some businesses are no where near the same. Over 68 billion dollars of damages total , the outcome of Sandy was not something you could anticipate.

Last night, I was nervously anticipating the start of our project but, as I found myself in the mist of a group of more then 25 other volunteers I know we can make a difference. We all know that one week of work cannot possibly recover all the loss experienced along the Jersey Shore but we have hope that we can help make the recovery process that much easier for at least one family.

Holy Matrimony, Batman!

Our trek began on Saturday, March 15, with our crew anxiously anticipating our experience in Boston. Collectively, we were all excited to make a difference for others during our Spring break and share memories together that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. With Gene Kelly and Aubrey at the wheel, literally, we embarked for Boston just after 11 am. Gene’s car adamantly sang along with Pitch Perfect for the first half of the ride, and naps were inevitable in the last few hours of the drive. Aubrey’s car was far more concerned with their beauty sleep and took full advantage of the spacious amount of leg room offered in their behemoth of a vehicle.  We arrived in Boston around six o’clock, unpacked, and Gene, Aubrey, and Carly went shopping groceries for the week. Once they returned from their grocery shopping fiasco, our wonderful cooking team that consisted of Aubrey, Ashley, and Zach created a wonderful breakfast for dinner. All I can say is, hmmm hmmm hmmm…. (Pancakes and sausage out the wazoo!) With a wonderful travel day behind us, we went to bed, prepared for a fun-filled day to come.

On Sunday, March 16, we all woke up for a nice breakfast provided by the hostel, which featured Belgian waffles and whip cream. Let’s just say it was so good some of us couldn’t fully comprehend how to eat (cough, Carly,…cough). As a group, we decided to brace the elements and all that Boston could throw at us and walk the first half of The Freedom Trail, a trail that covers everything about the history of Boston, from the Puritans, a group characterized by Protestant extremists, to Sam Adams, one of the Founding Fathers and the architect of American Republicanism that provided the framework for modern political culture. Our tour guide, Bryan, an animated Bostonian, regarded for his jokes and catch-phrases (the title of this blog included) who wanted nothing more than to marry Mary Dyer, was an excellent tour guide and certainly knew a lot about the great city of Boston and how it has come to be what it is today. Something that I took away from the tour that really had absolutely nothing to do with the tour itself was the passion and conviction with which Bryan spoke about his beloved hometown.

I don’t want to get deep on anyone here,…well, here you go! Many of us go through the monotony and dissatisfaction of living with something less than a fully authentic life; not wanting to work because it’s something we really don’t want to be doing, or listening to someone else’s conception of how we should lead our lives, etc. There’s an old adage; “love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life”. It would be an understatement to say that Bryan LOVED what he does. He is the epitome of a genuinely friendly human being who doesn’t mind what people think about him. At the end of the day, he finds sheer joy from giving historic tours of Boston to people. There is a great sense of humility, self-awareness, and happiness that is derived directly from making choices that confirm that you are where you want to be in life, whether that be a job, relationship, social status, or anything else. It’s funny how such a naive experience like taking a tour can render such monumental and powerful thoughts.

Anyway, the aforementioned is just thoughts that I believe are an integral part of our trip. While this may not be the most luxurious thing to do on our Spring vacation, it is important that we begin each day with a positive attitude and remember that this cause is for something greater than ourselves. This trip is what we make of it, and I know it will be one that I won’t forget!

Truly yours,

Ricky Lanzilotti

There’s no crying in ASB

…or maybe there is. This is my first ever ASB trip so I don’t really know what to expect. We will be sleeping in Newark, NJ, but spending our days down at the Jersey Shore doing Hurricane Sandy relief. Being from Long Island and now a resident of New Jersey I get very emotional when ever I am reminded of that terrible event, so my goal for the week is to not cry. I know so many families who lost everything during the storm. My husband and I had damage to our house and even thought it was minor it took almost eight months to get things fixed. I can only imagine the kind of things we will see during this week. I have a feeling I won’t be keeping my goal, but that’s ok because my real goal is to help out as much as I can.

It’s Time!

“Do I need a sleeping bag, maybe… maybe not, blanket should suffice right? Did I pack my charger? NEED to find the charger” It’s been a hectic morning and I have packed and unpacked more times than a normal person does. In an hour or so, I will be travelling with my team to Newark, NJ. I’m very excited to share this experience with other Lafayette students and grateful to have been given this opportunity. Although, I have volunteered in other fields, I have never done anything related to hurricane relief. Hurricane Sandy occurred a year ago, but many locations are still struggling from the storm damage. I hope to learn more about the issues related to natural calamities and its effects in the following years. Recovery is an arduous and long process and I’m thankful to be a small part of this recovery.

– Nirupa,

Still looking for the charger…

Pre-Trip Blog

We had our pre-service activity on Friday which was actually very relaxing and I think it put me in a bit of a “service state of mind”, which was good after a rigorous exam week. I think I still need to psych myself up for the actual service, because I haven’t done anything like this since last year so maybe that will happen after we finally get to New Jersey.

But I’m excited to go for the actual trip – it’s my first time to Newark (past the airport anyway) and the Shore. One of the things I will probably be looking out for is the cultural dynamics of the effects of the hurricane – how different races and economic classes are dealing with rebuilding. I’m also interested in finding out what preventive measures are being taken for the sites that are being rebuilt.

Overall I hope it will add to the experiences I’ve had in the US so far as an international student who has done service activities in Easton and New York, and give me even more of a representative view of issues in America.

Looking forward to having fun while serving, too!


T-minus 24 Hours

It is less than 24 hours until my team departs for Newark, New Jersey!

I am so excited for our trip to Newark! On our trip we will be staying at a Boys & Girls Club and then will be traveling each day to the Jersey Shore to help reconstruct homes that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy. My home town is on Long Island and so Hurricane Sandy Relief is something that I hold close to my heart. I understand the pain that these people went/are going through so I want to do anything in my power on this trip to help ease their suffering.

The months leading up to this trip went by so quickly and I can’t believe that I leave tomorrow. Throughout the first semester and the beginning of our second semester my team was able to build on our teamwork skills as we prepped for our trip. This included organizing fundraisers for our trip such as our Valentine’s Day candy-gram delivery and sticker sale. We were able to discuss our ideas and put them together to come up with great fundraisers. These fundraisers really helped with raising money for our trip and also  spread the word about our trip around campus. I also really enjoyed our pre-trip service project to the Easton Area Community Center. For our service we plotted seeds that would be planted in the EACC’s community garden later in the spring. I not only got to continue working with my ASB team but I also got to see what life was like in Easton outside of Lafayette. Our trip to the Easton Area Community Center was an eye-opening experience and I can’t wait to enjoy more moments like this in the coming week on my trip to Newark and the Jersey Shore!

Night Before The Trip!

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!!

Pre-trip Predictions

After several meetings, planning sessions, and a pizza dinner, our team is all prepared to embark on our journey to Newark!  When I signed up for ASB, I wasn’t really sure what to expect– I suppose I am still full of wonder and curiosity about it– but regardless, I am very happy that I get to be a part of it.  I am looking forward to sharing this experience with my fellow classmates, some good friends and some new acquaintances.  I’m sure that after spending a week together we will have so many fun shared memories.  As for me, I am mostly looking forward to the service we will be doing.  I think doing manual labor will be so rewarding.  I love to get my hands dirty and really get involved, so this will be perfect.  I am also so excited to interact with children.  I am a tutor for young kids, so I have spent a lot of time with youngsters.  They always provide so much joy and are wonderful to be around.  A week of service will be an amazing way to spend spring break!

All Packed and Ready to Go

So in a few weeks from now (and by weeks, I probably mean days!), someone is going to ask me: “what did you do over spring break?” To that, my response will be, “I helped rebuild New Jersey, of course.” And they – like I was prior to becoming a part of this trip – will wonder, “shouldn’t everything be fixed by now?”

Sadly, no – not everything is fixed. For some natural disasters, it may take years to clean up and rebuild. And for some people, the costs of rebuilding on their own are relatively costly – both in terms of monetary cost and manpower.

That’s where we come in. Tomorrow, (ASB Newark:) What a Disaster! will be joining over 60 other United Way volunteers in efforts to not only provide physical repairs, but also provide a helping hand to children affected by Hurricane Sandy by running various activities for the children to enjoy.

So while I look forward to the eventful week ahead of me, I must get some sleep to be ready in the morning! Until then!

A Senior’s Pre-Reflection

This is the night before I am leaving for my ASB trip to New Jersey. It is March 15th, 2014. I am sitting at my computer and I have not even finished packing yet. I am still determining how I can compartmentalize. As I sit here, many thoughts are going through my head.

First is the uniqueness of experience. My level of community engagement has thus far mostly been limited to working with children and teens in my whole life. This experience is new to me. I may be an engineer, but I’ve never done construction type work. I am a mechanical, not a civil engineer. But that is beside the point.

It is still hard for me to picture the impact that Hurricane Sandy has had, now a year and a half ago. My hometown was hit, but not drastically affected. As for Lafayette College, where I was at the time, I was in a friend’s dorm perhaps a ten minute walk from my own when the storm hit. I was going to walk back, but the wind was so strong I could barely open the door to the outside. Thus, I ended up sleeping on the floor for the night with covers, thanks to some help from a gracious host. It was unsettling to sleep with all the chaos outside.

I know areas of the country such as Long Island were hit very badly and have not yet fully recovered, but it is hard to describe or understand something like this until you see it first hand. In a matter of hours that is exactly what my group and I will be doing, and we will be doing our part to help, understand the issue and raise awareness.

I on a certain level, am nervous and do not know what to expect. But I also know that it will be a rewarding and memorable experience. More to come.