Published on November 25, 2013 by Barry Glass
Over the Veteran’s Day Weekend November 9-11, six south area teens and three adult chaperones travelled to Long Island on a service trip to assist in the ongoing recovery efforts from Hurricane Sandy. Just over one year after the storm, there are still hundreds of people displaced with homes still uninhabitable. The trip was organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Boston’s TELEM teen service learning program, in collaboration with the Temple Sinai (Sharon) youth program. Our partner in Long Island was the organization NECHAMA: A Jewish Response to Disaster, who provided housing, meals, work sites and work site supervision.
The teens –5 from Temple Sinai, Sharon and one from Temple Israel, Sharon - are 9th graders at Sharon High School. Five of them had previously participated in Temple Sinai’s TELEM Literacy Program partnership with the Westfield Child Center in Brockton but no longer involved with TELEM’s year-long service learning program.
Over the course of the weekend, the crew worked on two different work sites: one in Amityville and the other in Long Beach – two areas hit quite hard by the storm and flooding. Both homes are still uninhabitable, and their owners – single women – are living elsewhere with family. Both owners have challenging financial circumstances and have been unable to gather the resources to rehab their homes. NECHAMA’s mission is to work with people who are unable to provide the financial resources to rebuild their homes.
The teens did some terrific work to help these housing rehab projects along. At one home they prepared and primed the walls (2 coats) of the entire interior space. At the other, they did demolition, cleanout and wall preparation for drywall installation. None had ever been on a service trip before and none had seen this kind of devastation in person. The condition of the homes and the stories of one year of displacement certainly got their attention.
The teens expressed a real satisfaction in the work and trip in our Sunday evening post-dinner debrief. They also enjoyed the overall trip atmosphere and activities which included: working alongside NECHAMA staff and volunteers and learning about their commitment to service; preparing (and cleaning up after) a communal feast for all volunteers working with NECHAMA; going bowling, and having a series of “Shehecheyanu Moments” to remind us of our Jewish connections to this service work.
Several of the teens have already asked when the next trip will be!