Former Treehouse Youth Joins Disaster Relief Efforts in Puerto Rico

By Ignacio, Former Treehouse Youth

Ignacio, 23, is a former Treehouse youth who is now serving in AmeriCorps on the East Coast. His team was brought to Puerto Rico to assist FEMA with disaster relief efforts. He wrote this while he was serving there.

In the beginning of my training, I was told the different regions and territories that FEMA covers. I thought it would be pretty awesome to somehow end up in Puerto Rico, but it seemed unlikely for my team and me to be deployed there. Then, a few months later, Puerto Rico was hit by a massive hurricane.

When I arrived by plane, the impact from the hurricane could instantly be seen. The airport we landed in had a lot of water damage, as well as broken tiles on the ceiling. My team and I drove in the dark because there was no electricity and traffic lights were not operating.

During the day, you could see the damage more clearly. The trees were broken, and there was a lot of debris piled up. There were military personnel everywhere. I was trying to take a photograph on my phone and some guy walked in front of my view who happened to work for the FBI. The atmosphere felt like a scene straight out of an action movie. It was surreal.

My team and I canvass, which means we walk around neighborhoods to ask people if they have registered for assistance. I register as many survivors as possible. Many of their houses have roofs missing or one side of the house is gone. There are a lot of utility poles broken with electrical wires all over the place.

I have heard a lot of depressing stories while working, but one thing that stands out is the great sense of community in Puerto Rico. Neighbors are taking care of each other. When we go out to register survivors, they are so grateful that we showed up, and they take care of us because they see us as hope in a traumatic time.

One day when my team and I were canvassing, a young man about my age told us that he’d been to prison, and because they offered church service on Sundays, it changed him to become a better person. He said he organized a group to assist his community and that he admires the work we are doing. He asked if it was okay to take a picture with us. I find it very rewarding when we meet people like him, especially during a long day.

I think it is fantastic that I am here, and it is definitely an experience I will never forget. I will be telling this story to my grandchildren.

Read more about Ignacio’s history with Treehouse and what has motivated him to give back in a previous blog post.

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About the Author

Ignacio is a former Treehouse student and volunteer. He is currently serving on an AmeriCorps team on the East Coast.

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