Before resuming posts for class, I feel the need to address the natural disaster that occurred over two weeks ago. Although I still have a home, I was not able to live in it for two weeks due to not having power and temperatures going as low as 30 degrees. I have minimal house damage but I do consider myself lucky. On November 10, I joined the School of Social Work as well as the Center for Student Involvement on a trip to Long Beach. First, we stopped at a church to help organize clothing and then about half of us split up into two groups and went to help clean out houses. Out of about eight houses, we were able to help four people because most people weren’t home. The first house we went to we had to clean out a shed. I couldn’t imagine being in this woman’s position: watching strangers come and clean out her life putting it on the ground for her to survey what was damaged and what was not, what was salvageable and having these strangers carry her belongings onto the curb. In the shed there were a lot of bins that had toys or clothing in them. A few bins of clothing were saved but the bins of toys were filled with four inches of water and everything was drenched. It was truly heartbreaking.
I will never forget the face of another woman who was so excited for us to be there. She jumped up and down and was so grateful for some help. She had a small home but was only about 10-15 houses from the water. For being so close to the water, she only had about a foot of water in her home. We went through everything with her and she was able to salvage a lot of her belongings. Since it was such a small home, only about six of us stayed and the rest of the group went on to another home. The few of us got to talk to her while we were cleaning out her home and she was just so appreciative to have us there. She was also in good spirits even though some of her belongings were damaged and her storage unit was also flooded so she lost most of her belongings in there as well. When we were finished, she hugged all of us and was so grateful. After leaving this home, we went to another house that was quickly cleaned out. By the time we got there, only a few things remained: a wall unit and a cabinet. The water line in the basement was about six feet high and there was sewage all over the floors and the cabinets and all over the bathroom and the smell was something I could never describe. The man was so grateful he asked to take a picture of all of us before we left. We then went to help another woman whose house was also quickly cleaned out and it was mostly big furniture in which most of us could not help so we were given a job to go around and ask people if they needed anything from the donation center down the block. No one really needed anything or said they would rather people who need it more receive those items. One woman however said the only thing she needed was ice for her daughter’s medicine that needs to be refrigerated. We went down to the donation center and asked around if any place in the area had ice. We were told the Knights of Columbus across the street had ice. We went in and explained the situation and a man gave us a full bag of ice. We went back to the woman’s house who was in such shock that we had brought her something so small as a bag of ice. I will never forget that woman because I had not expected to help her that day. We went around the neighborhood asking if anyone else needed help and everyone who was home seemed to have help so we got back on the bus and went back to the church and then drove back to school.
It was such an amazing experience to be able to help those people and see the smiles on their faces knowing they weren’t alone. It was also great to see the communities coming together and helping each other. I hope to go back and do more volunteer work over the next month whenever I can.
(The pictures above were taken by my friend, it conveys the amount of garbage that was piled up on the curb in front of people’s houses)