As a part of the New York statewide effort to “Stand with Puerto Rico,” several SUNY Oswego students including myself has chosen to embark on a two-week journey in San Juan, Puerto Rico to aid in disaster relief.
In collaboration with the non-profit disaster relief organization, NECHAMA, I have the opportunity to directly impact the lives of homeowners who are trying to recover from the devastation that Hurricane Maria caused.
My group was assigned to repair the roof of an 80-year-old woman. Upon arrival at the site, I noticed the condition of the home and the surrounding homes. It was clear that the roofs of many homes in that area were affected by the storm.
Her roof, which was once the second story of her home had been damaged by several hurricanes over the years causing her to transform it into a roof. Due to several cracks in the concrete, her house often had leaking when it rained.
After speaking with Marta I got to learn a little more about her life. She lost her husband five years ago and currently lives alone. They were married for over 40 years and have two sons together. One of which lives in Puerto Rico and the other residing in Texas. She expressed that her husband did everything for her including building their home so when he passed, it was very hard for her to adjust to living on her own. It was the first time in her life where she had to do things for herself.
Day 1 consisted of scrapping and lifting the old surface of the roof to prepare it to be cleaned and prepped for the sealing and painting of the new roof.
Fast-forwarding to September of 2017 when Hurricane Maria hit, she was faced with overcoming the devastation on her own.
Today was filled with concrete work and preparing the roof to be painted. My team and I dusted and swept the roof, applied concrete to all of the cracks and began applying primer to the surface of the roof. Unfortunately, it started to rain very hard causing the primer we applied to be washed away. Our resilient team, however, was not discouraged and quickly dried the surface and applied the primer for the second time.
Perhaps the highlight of the day was the home cooked meal we were prepared for lunch by our homeowner, Marta. Marta prepared a delicious meal for us to eat (chicken, rice, and beans) to show her appreciation for our efforts to help her with her home.
Today was slower than the previous days in terms of busy work. Since we primed the roof and prepped it to be painted, the only task left to do was to actually paint. While completing this task, a news crew came to Marta’s home to interview the leaders of our group and a few students. We explained to the crew the process of our work and the importance of the “Stand with Puerto Rico” initiative.
Our lovely homeowner Marta, yet again, prepared us a delicious lunch. Today, she made rice and beans with pork chops. It felt great to see how much she appreciates us and which in turn allowed me to put the entire program into perspective.
Sadly, our time with Marta will come to an end soon as we only have one more task to complete to restore her roof. Tomorrow, we will be applying a second coat of paint and then we are off to meet a new homeowner!