SUNY Geneseo students have made three trips to Puerto Rico this year to assist with relief efforts after Hurricane Maria devastated much of the island in September 2017.
The latest trip commenced in July as part of the SUNY Stands with Puerto Rico initiative.
Kyle Matthews, assistant professor of Spanish, led a group of 10 Geneseo students who joined 19 students from other SUNY campuses as part of the initiative during the first two weeks of July. The students worked with NECHAMA – Jewish Response to Disaster, a volunteer organization that provides recovery assistance after natural disasters. The students helped clear out damaged homes, and repaired and replaced roofs, doors, and windows, and made other repairs.
Geneseo is one of eleven SUNY campuses taking part in a two-week summer deployment. The Geneseo Study Abroad Office along with the Center for Community has helped to facilitate the program which is funded by a UNICEF grant, the SUNY Office of Global Affairs, and the SUNY Chancellor’s Office. It is expected that nearly 500 SUNY and CUNY students will travel to the U.S. territory this summer to assist in the recovery.
The first Geneseo relief mission during spring break in March consisted of 10 students, staff and community members. The opportunity was made available as part of a service experience offered through Livingston CARES, a non-profit humanitarian organization housed at the College.
The second Livingston CARES trip occurred in Mid-May. That group worked with Rehace Inc. of the United Methodist Church in San Juan. The Geneseo volunteers helped install metal roofs and distributed water purification kits.
Participants in Livingston CARES service trips pay their travel expenses and work closely with groups organizing the cleanup for accommodations and meals.
Since the first trip to Mississippi in 2006, Livingston CARES has made 55 service trips with nearly 1,100 volunteers to storm-ravaged areas of the country such as Staten Island, Brooklyn, Mississippi, Texas and Florida. Matthews spearheaded the formation of the College/community organization to build a service component into his highly regarded co-curricular leadership program GOLD (Geneseo Opportunities for Leadership Development). Through GOLD, students earn various levels of certificates based on their involvement in leadership training, personal development courses, service-learning experiences and volunteer work.