In 2012, Kayla Marsdale, an Early Childhood Education major, lost her home to Hurricane Sandy.
When she found out that NCC’s Christian Fellowship was planning a relief trip to Texas, after the catastrophic Hurricane Harvey, she decided she had to go along.
Thirteen NCC students traveled to Port Aransas, a city on Mustang Island off the coast of Texas, to help rebuild and repair homes wrecked by the category 4 storm that rocked the gulf coast on Aug. 25, 2017.
The group was there from Jan. 4-12, 2018 during winter break.
They recently spoke about their trip, presenting a slideshow at Lipkin Theatre.
Their trip got off to a rocky start as the students experienced delayed and cancelled flights due to winter storms.
They were forced to bond in the confines of an airport gatehouse.
“Our expectations were broken every single day,” said Ryan Armbruster, a Biochemistry major. On a positive note the time spent together allowed them “to unite as a team,” he added.
When they finally arrived at their destination they witnessed, “devastation and hope at the exact same time,” said Bob Bradford, Engineering major and president of the Christian Fellowship.
While expecting to see “hopelessness and depression,” Roxy Castillo, a Social Work major and member of the Student Senate, said she saw “high spirits.” Describing herself as someone who never had much faith, she said, “The trip opened up my mind. Life is very unexpected.”
They shared the experience of helping a woman repair her storm-damaged home after a dishonest contractor had robbed her of the last of her savings.
Marsdale told the woman her own story of loss and was able to make a meaningful connection.
“We helped restore her home and restore her hope for a better future,” Marsdale said. “A lot of good comes out of the horrible stuff.”
One student had a defining moment. He realized that Missions are his life’s work.
“I realized this is something I need to do for the rest of my life,” said Chris Curtis, a Communication Studies major.
Later this year he will be heading to Houston, Texas to begin an internship with a ministry.
The students spent a lot of time together on the trip. Through prayer walks and team-building, they created a lasting bond that was still visible months after returning to NCC. Their mantra was “Port A Strong,” a simple phrase that held them up through difficult times.
The group was led by Jane Buschemi, Adjunct Professor of Speech Communication and Christian Fellowship Advisor.
They all agreed that their time in Texas helped them to better understand the strength of community and the value of volunteerism. They hope that their work can empower others and create, “a pull in your heart to do relief work,” said Bradford. Their example shows “it is possible to get people together,” he said.
The fundraising for the trip was a student effort. The Christian Fellowship spearheaded the project, and soon got the support of the Early Childhood Education Association, the Outdoors Club and the Political Science Club.
As the project gained attention, it soon garnered the response of other clubs and individual students who helped donate the necessary funds. They set and exceeded their lofty goal of $10,000.
Lending yourself to service doesn’t have to be an extraordinary project.
“Give your time. You don’t have to go far, even our neighbors could use some help,” Sara Mass, an Early Childhood Education major, concluded.