Metro students lift others up on spring break

A large group of Metropolitan Campus students worked with the nonprofit SBP on Project Uplift over spring break, helping homeowners who sustained damage during Hurricane Sandy.

By Kenna Caprio

Parts of New York are still recovering from the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy more than five years later. This includes Rockaway, where 16 members of Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Metropolitan Campus community volunteered over spring break.

“It was a humbling and rewarding experience,” says Romina Croce, the graduate student who coordinated the trip with the Office of Student Life.

The group connected with SBP, an organization founded in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, to provide hands-on help to the Project Uplift initiative. “SBP ensures that work continues in an area until there are no families left who still need assistance,” says Croce. Project Uplift, a joint effort between SBP and the state of New York, elevates homes at an affordable rate. This way, when another storm hits, homes will sustain less damage.

“Half of our group worked on mold remediation. The mold had already been removed from the house prior to our arrival, but they coated the floors and walls with a product to prevent mold from coming back,” says Croce. “The other half of the group canvassed the neighborhood, where they went door-to-door to homes in the area that could benefit from a home lift. They talked to people of the neighborhood about the Uplift Project, left fliers, and got contact information.”

For Haley Hassan, a sophomore psychology major enrolled in the five-year QUEST program, the volunteer work struck her on a deeply personal level. Her own family just found a new home, after being evicted six months ago. "I didn't realize how important having a home or place stay is until it was gone, right before my eyes. This was a volunteer opportunity to help families rebuild and get back on their feet," she says. "I believe in the happiness effect. When I volunteer, I feel connected to other people. I feel a sense of purpose and fulfillment. We made someone else happy."

Seeing how destroyed homes are still, more than five years later, really made an impact on the students. So did seeing the smiles of those they helped.

“The best part of this trip was seeing the smile on the woman’s face when we arrived at her house. This woman’s home was completely demolished on the first floor. It was a real eye-opener. There are so many families and individuals still waiting for help," says Jonathan Berrios, a sophomore information technology major. "We scrubbed and wiped it all until we covered each inch. She will soon be able to live comfortably in her own home again. It’s a joyful thing to help someone in need.”

The FDU students who volunteered in Rockaway, N.Y., are wearing work suits and goggles to apply an anti-mold substance that will prevent the fungus from reoccurring in the rebuilt homes. (Photos courtesy of Romina Croce)

For more information about Project Uplift and other recovery efforts, visit SBP.