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Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria Relief (Session 1)

June 23, 2019
After a long day at the airport, we finally were able to roam (within the walls of the Big Yellow House of course) and enjoy the beauty which makes Puerto Rico. I don’t know how to explain it, it was like something you only see pictures of, something you dream of, something you never imagined being able to experience. The night is quiet yet so full of life, Spanish music filling the air. We try and talk, getting to know each other but the music is too loud… it doesn’t really matter because we know we all share something- this beautiful night in Puerto Rico. All that’s left to do is get sand on your feet playing on the volleyball court, look up at the stars, and eat delicious food.

June 24, 2019
Day two was kind of an early start and I think people had some trouble with it, yet everyone still joined together to feast on sweet Puerto Rican culture. We pulled ourselves together and got onto a bus, driving an hour to the capital, San Juan. The day was filled with long walks and to locals watching us we probably just appeared to be a herd of tourists. What they didn’t know was that within the tourism came love, respect and the desire to help. The day went on, treasures and churches that were beyond beautiful. The city is gorgeous. And I am left speechless.
By Katie, Alina, Vivían, Shea, Nyan, Eicca

June 25, 2019

We started off our day with a delicious breakfast consisting of colorful fruit loops and fresh fruit. We then got ready for our first day of service, excited to start helping the community of Puerto Rico. As we drove away from the Big Yellow House and headed to the work site, we noticed the steepness of the hills in Puerto Rico, the bus barely making it up. Once we got to the site, William, one of the workers, and Angel, the owner of the house, explained the hard work we would be doing throughout the day, while two kids helped to translate. We broke up into three groups, hoping to create a beneficial, sustainable, and efficient system. One group shoveled sand and stones into buckets to add to the cement mixer, while another group shoveled the cement we created into buckets, and the third group passed the buckets of cement, which then created the foundation for the walls. Then Maria, the owner of the house, made us an amazing lunch with chicken, rice, beans, and salad. Then we got back to work and rotated throughout the various positions, so everyone got a chance to try each position, for two more hours. When we returned to the Big Yellow House, we changed into our swimsuits and walked down to the beach. We swam in the ocean, played in the sand, watched the sunset and reflected on how our service helped the community in Puerto Rico. We then came back home and showered as we waited for our pizza party. Finally, we finished our night and headed to bed, anticipating our next exciting work day.

Charlie, Julia, Sierra, Hannah, Clair

June 26, 2019

We experienced the Puerto Rican lifestyle thoroughly when our air conditioner broke. This was just a taste of what the Puerto Rican community had to experience after the hurricane when they had no air conditioning for three months. Despite the discomfort from the night before, we pushed through and worked in the hot sun helping a local family fix their roof. Afterwards, we returned to Maria’s house for a delicious “linner.” We drove back to the Big Yellow House, feeling accomplished of what we did today, knowing we made a difference in someone’s life. As we walked to the beach to have fun, we continued to reflect on our service. After an amusing time at the beach, we returned home once again to talk amongst ourselves and eat dinner and end our night with many laughs as usual.

Sophia, Nadia, Claire, Alec, Wade

June 27, 2019
We started off our day fresh and bright with a breakfast of eggs, bacon, fresh fruit, cereal, and an assortment of juices. After eating breakfast, we got ready for our long two-hour drive into the mountains encompassed by the soft rain of the jungle. After a ten-minute hike we reached our destination called Tropic Ventures, a forestry and homestead run by Thryte. Our group was swiftly welcomed into the homestead by Thryte, three friendly dogs, baby ducks and the many other animals chilling around the forest greenery.  After a quick debrief, she illustrated the extent to which the hurricanes damaged the tree line around the retreat.  Pointing out our view of the coastline, Thryte indicated that before the storms, the overgrowth completely surrounded the compounds.  We split into groups and began hedging, trimming, and cropping the weeds that were getting in the way of the paths and crowding out the growth of other plants.  After finishing our work, we ate lunch under the open-air dining room, complete with hammocks and cushioned sofas. We left Tropic Ventures feeling refreshed by the cool mountain air of the jungle and with more knowledge of sustainability in Puerto Rico. A quick bus ride and an even quicker hike led us to a freshwater swimming pool complete with a mini waterfall and a scenic view. While some of the group jumped immediately into the cool water, others preferred to dip their toes in the water and let the fish nibble away at their worries (and dead skin). Needless to say, everyone enjoyed their time at the natural swimming hole before the rain showers pushed us out. The bus ride back allowed us to unwind a little bit and settle in for the rush hour traffic.  We arrived at the Big Yellow House and dinner wasn’t too far behind.  After some more downtime, we held reflections, during which many of the group members talked about how their experiences serving helped them appreciate their opportunities and the abilities we have to help people in need.

By Sam, Emmie, Jack, Calvin, and Zach

June 28, 2019
We started off by collecting our cement gear in the morning and taking the bus to Victor’s house, where our goal was to lay down a new cement roof that had been wiped out by Hurricane Maria. Per usual, we mixed cement and handed it in buckets in a line leading up to the roof, where it was poured and thrown, and the buckets were thrown back down to be done all over again. After working, we headed over to Maria’s house, where we ate chicken, rice, and salad. Then, we headed back to the Big Yellow House, where we began to pack. We came together to collectively clean the entire house for our departure. We then ate Puerto Rican barbecue provided by all the people we had helped throughout the week. After dinner, we were taught beginner salsa dancing and danced into the night. William started off by saying goodbye and thank you as others followed. After a tearful exchange of goodbyes, William and his group began handing out bracelets with a Puerto Rican flag embedded into them. We ended the night with a brief dance party to celebrate.

By Brad, Elizabeth, Bryan