Students Head to Puerto Rico to Aid in Hurricane Recovery Efforts
During this holiday season, 23 Syracuse University students and two advisors are headed to Puerto Rico to help in the recovery from the devastating impacts of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which struck the island this past fall.
The group will depart for Puerto Rico on Dec. 16 and return on Dec. 22. While there, the group will work with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief on tasks including clean-up efforts, demolition and delivering supplies in the greater San Juan area. You can follow the group on the trip here.
Co-sponsored by Hendricks Chapel and the Student Association, the trip will be led by Baptist Campus Chaplain Devon Bartholomew and Muslim Assistant Chaplain Ibrahim Malik. The 23 students making the trip were selected from a pool of 193 applicants, and participated in individual and group interviews to earn their place in the group. Those traveling represent a broad range of the Syracuse student community—undergraduate and graduate students in a range of years and majors.
John Jankovic, a sophomore political science, psychology and classical civilization major in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and a member of the Student Association, is the group’s student team leader.
“The ideas of One University and Orange Nation, I believe, extend past the borders of our campus and our city,” says Jankovic, who was impacted by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. “I can form a cohesive team effort, one where everyone knows they are there for the same reason, and lead them effectively.”
Gabrielle Phillips, a freshman inclusive elementary and special education major in the School of Education, brings experience from previous service trips she has made to New Orleans and the Dominican Republic.
“Oftentimes its hard to feel that you are making a difference when you are taking action so far away from the problem with a small amount of people, so being able to actually go to Puerto Rico and work hands on to help rebuild seemed like an opportunity far too amazing to pass up. I believe that I can bring a passion and teamwork to the relief efforts,” she says.
Elissa Candiotti, a senior broadcast and digital journalism major in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, has a particular inspiration for applying for the trip.
“My experience as a Remembrance Scholar has motivated me to continue casting light in the dark shadows of tragedy,” she says. “It has been difficult to see and read about the ways in which Puerto Rico is still struggling to recover from the hurricanes after so many months, and I am determined to make a difference.”
As a graduate student in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, Yapan Liu was inspired to help by an engineering class he took that looked at recent natural disasters. “With the knowledge we learned in class, our team analyzed the process, from forecasting to rescuing to reconstruction. And we tried to provide some solutions to make the process better,” he says.
Bartholomew says the members of the group are eager to get to Puerto Rico. “They are ready to go,” Bartholomew says of the students. “I appreciate their willingness to respond to this disaster.”
All say they plan to continue their efforts to bring awareness about Puerto Rico and the needs there once they return to Syracuse. “As a broadcast and digital journalism major, I plan to use my storytelling skills while in Puerto Rico,” says Candiotti. “When I return, I will share those written and visual stories with the Syracuse community.”
“I think awareness is one of the most important things; this island has been set back years in a variety of aspects,” says Jankovic. “I do not want these efforts to stop here.”
For information on how you can help disaster relief efforts, visit the Hendricks Chapel website.