Students Lend a Hand in Puerto Rico

July 3, 2018

UNICEF USA teams up with the State of New York to spearhead post-Hurricane Maria recovery efforts.

With support from UNICEF USA, teams of student volunteers from New York are in Puerto Rico this summer helping to repair homes that were damaged during Hurricane Maria.   

The rebuilding is part of UNICEF USA's ongoing recovery assistance efforts launched in the wake of the storm, which ravaged the island over two days last September, destroying buildings, flooding roads and knocking out the power grid. An estimated 1 million people were left without safe drinking water. In the immediate aftermath, UNICEF USA coordinated with UPS and other partners on the ground to deliver clean water and emergency supplies to affected families. UNICEF USA's Bridge Fund provided the funding needed to support a swift response.

College student volunteers from New York are helping to replace the roof that blew off of the Andelis family home in Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria. Two members of the family are pictured above: 9-month-old Yovanieli and her mother, Gloria Marie, 21. © Edison Sabala for UNICEF USA

One of the main tasks the students are helping out with: roof replacement and reinforcement. The Andelis family, for example, is getting a new roof for their home in Isla Verde near San Juan. "Things are bad in Puerto Rico, but I'm very thankful that the students are here helping," says Yovany Andelis, a father of two.

Oneika Pryce, 19, a student at The City College of New York, is one of the student volunteers who went to Puerto Rico in June 2018 to help families rebuild as part of a UNICEF USA-supported effort. "As a New Yorker and a child of Jamaican immigrants, I felt drawn to come help," she says. © Edison Sabala for UNICEF USA

"As a New Yorker and a child of Jamaican immigrants, I felt drawn to come help," says Oneika Pryce, a 19-year-old student at The City College of New York. "Being here has really opened my eyes to Puerto Rico's strength, resilience and rich culture. It is truly an honor to be a part of this experience."

Brooklyn College student Jonathan Cabral, 24, points to his grandmother as his inspiration. "She lives alone with her sister in the Dominican Republic. If something similar happened there, I would want others to help," he says. 

Student volunteers participating in the UNICEF USA-supported rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico this summer are able to meet the kids they are helping — like Gloria, 3, above — which they say makes the experience that much more meaningful. © Edison Sabala for UNICEF USA

President and CEO of UNICEF USA Caryl Stern calls the project empowering for young people. "It is the ultimate 'kids helping kids' solution, which is at the heart of what UNICEF is all about," Stern says.

It is the ultimate 'kids helping kids' solution, which is at the heart of what UNICEF is all about.

UNICEF USA and New York State, through the NY Stands With Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative, are co-funders of the deployment, which continues through early August. A total of 500 student volunteers and 20 skilled labor volunteers are participating. Teams of a couple dozen or more spend two weeks each on the job, embedded with one of three nonprofit partners who are already active on the ground: All Hands and Hearts, Nechama and Heart 9/11.

SUNY and CUNY students are replacing and reinforcing roofs on homes damaged during Hurricane Maria as part of a UNICEF USA-supported recovery effort in partnership with New York State. © Edison Sabala for UNICEF USA

Every year, UNICEF responds to more than 250 emergencies—from conflicts to natural disasters. Read more about how UNICEF works in emergencies.

 

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Top photo: UNICEF USA's post-Hurricane Maria recovery assistance efforts include helping families in Puerto Rico rebuild homes that were damaged during the storm. Student volunteers from State University of New York (SUNY) and City University of New York (CUNY) schools are spending the summer working alongside professional carpenters and contractors to replace or reinforce roofs, among other structural repairs. © Edison Sabala for UNICEF USA