While thousands of college students flooded the Florida beaches for spring break, 27 Oxford College students headed to Seaside Heights, N.J. These students spent their break helping to clean up and rebuild the area after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.
The trip was part of a program called Alternative Spring Break where college students are given the opportunity to perform service with the school during their break.
During this week, the students engaged themselves with the community of Seaside Heights and saw first hand how much destruction was caused by Hurricane Sandy.
Students were shocked to see houses, or what was left of houses, still untouched in a vast mess as though the storm had just hit. They also interacted with many people who were still displaced from their homes and living with friends or in hotels. What used to be a lively beach destination was now a ghost town.
“We always see people helping immediately after a natural disaster and assume that in a month or two everything is fixed because we stop hearing about it,” said sophomore Sasha Palmer. “But it’s been almost five months since Hurricane Sandy, and because of this trip, I have witnessed there is just as much destruction today as there was five months ago and that’s sad.”
During the week, the students shoveled sand out of the ocean-front gazebos to help restore them for public use. They also went to houses to help clean up the debris and restore what they could of the properties.
“Working on the boardwalk, while a tiring job to do, was so rewarding,” said sophomore Roheen Virani. “We actually made a visible impact restoring the Jersey Shore.”
Many of the residents have been unable to start rebuilding because of the lack of insurance money given to them. Residents said insurance companies had been changing the codes and qualifications for the money needed.
Patti Wehrle, a New Jersey homeowner, was thankful for the students’ effort as they rebuilt her fence and cleared out the debris that littered her property.
“Those are things I would have to hire people to do and they came and did it out of the goodness of their hearts,” Wehrle said. “If everyone acted that way, the world would be a much better place.”
The community was amazed college students would spend their spring break helping them.
The students walked away from this week inspired by the perseverance of the Seaside Heights community.
The strength and hope displayed in the community let the students know the community will recover one day and continue to be, “Jersey Strong.”