As flood devastation tore apart the homes in San Marcos and Wimberley, Texas, the community came together.
As we approach the end of our week down here, I reflect back on the experiences of the Alternative Winter Break team of students, combined from the University of Illinois Hillel and the San Francisco State Hillel, as we volunteered our time to help in the relief needed after two floods came through in one year and affected hundreds of homes. I am extremely grateful to SORF, Hillel International, and all our donors that made this new experience possible for all the participants of the trip.
Throughout our time in Texas we have met many members of the community. Each time we have gone to work at a new location, we have met somebody new who has given us his or her perspective of the flooding. Everyone was so thankful for our help and told us we were making a huge difference. Flood victims appreciated our energy, strength, and enthusiasm as we cleared away debris, moved belongings, and helped repair their homes.
Over 30,000 volunteers have helped since the first flood in May and it was amazing to take part of the incredible well-organized community efforts. Still, the recovery will not be completed for at least four more years. Without volunteers like our Alternative Break team, the work would take much longer. The manual labor was difficult, and we were all sore and tired. However, we knew that was nothing compared to the inconvenience of having a flooded home or losing loved ones.
One night, we had the opportunity to listen to a panel of survivors, first responders, and volunteers. The flood brought the community together as they supported each other to return to normal life after the devastation tore hundreds of properties apart. Neighbors were eager to help each other out and make sure everyone was getting the help they needed. I realized the value in knowing your neighbors and building a strong community.
The communities taught me that it’s not about what happens, but how you respond. Natural disasters are unavoidable and unpredictable, but working hard to repair the community and working together is the only way to move forward. The residents of Wimberley and San Marcos taught me to be kind to everyone, remain hopeful, and never give up.