Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey in 2012, rocking inner cities and destroying entire coastline communities. In response, NJIT created its first Alternative Spring Break. Through this initiative, students could volunteer their time and help rebuild what was destroyed during the storm. NJIT continued this tradition for the third time with the Alternative Spring Break 2015.
The experience was moving; seeing the damage that still needed repair after almost 3 years spoke to volunteers of the community that once was. Sandy hit NJ in late October of 2012; yet the impact is still clearly evident in the lives of the people who reside by the shore. Restoring their homes is a long, tedious job that can only be done with all hands on deck.
This year, over 200 volunteers were treated to a more urban experience; in previous years, volunteers their time at food banks and nursing homes. This spring break, Volunteers did everything from gardening, to sweeping streets, to restoring an old community center, and much more.
It was an enlightening and rewarding time; the members of the communities served were ecstatic about the arrival of volunteers. They knew exactly what needed to be done and allowed us to get to work promptly. Team leaders brought the students together in order to accomplish tasks in an orderly, organized manner and allowed for things to get done very efficiently.
Additionally, the participants came up with unique ways to make working easier and a lot more fun. Volunteers made jokes, enjoyed the company of each other, taking selfies; it all came about so seamlessly. While participants came as strangers, by the time lunch time came around; it was as if they had all been friends for life. We came alone but left as a family.
“It was a great experience to go out there and help those who have stumbled upon hard times. Knowing that I, along with my fellow mates, made a difference during our spring break made it all worthwhile,” said Muhammad Zunair, a Computer Science sophomore at NJIT who volunteered at the highlands and the food bank.
“Spending my spring break extending a hand to those who needed it was a great experience. I really enjoyed helping people and making more friends,” said Andres Carillo, a Computer Science senior who spent his time cleaning up the streets.
Alternative Spring Break is an experience definitely worth checking out; with over 1000 volunteers and counting, it is steadily growing and the communities assisted are slowly getting back on their feet.