Central New York, Community, Environment, Health, Syracuse

SU Students Learn Life Lessons as They Help in Puerto Rico Recovery

The Syracuse University team cleaned out a house that flooded to the second floor during Hurricane Maria (c) Elissa Candiotti 2017.

Click the Play button above to find out how some CNY students may have
received more than they gave during a recent trip to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico.

Audio transcript: Feature News Story Puerto Rico_Candiotti

By Elissa Candiotti SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – This holiday season, a group of Syracuse University students say they received the best present of all: the gift of giving.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, 22 students traveled together to Puerto Rico to assist in relief efforts. For seven days, they were up and out for the day before the sun was, preparing to distribute food, water, and clothing to people in need across the island.

The Syracuse University team cleaned out a house that flooded to the second floor during Hurricane Maria (c) 2017 Elissa Candiotti.

“I knew it was bad but coming here, I did not think it would be nearly this bad,” senior Sydney Kennedy said. “You hear about it and then you come here and you see it and you just want to show everybody.”

These sights kept the students motivated during the week-long journey. Each of the students felt inspired to make as big a difference as possible during the trip, just one week before Christmas.

“Change happens through baby steps you take every day and people pick up on it,” sophomore John Jankovic said. “We were only here a week but we touched the lives of at least one person.”

Each day, the students completed different tasks. They traveled across the island to hand deliver water filters to families and taught them how to properly use the device, establishing strong connections along the way. They also prepared food packages for people who have been scavenging for meals over the past three months.

The students prepared food packs for families in need. Each bag had a variety of non-perishable items (c) 2017 Elissa Candiotti.

“For someone to come from someone else to take time to care for them and listen to them, it’s making a significant difference,” trip leader Mickey Caison said.

The Syracuse University team plans to continue providing aid to Puerto Rico and hopes to plan similar relief trips in the future.  By helping to better others, Devon Bartholomew says, they also better themselves.

“It gave us one true window into a person’s life or story so I think that has changed me and all of our participants,” Bartholomew said.