2018-09-19 / Features

CUNY Students Volunteer With NY Stands With Puerto Rico Aid Program

Ashley Chu grew up in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood, a long way from Puerto Rico. But when Hurricanes Maria and Irma devastated the island last year, the impact struck close to home.

Chu saw the footage of the monster storm’s destructive path and immediately thought, “I have to give back,” she said. It was her childhood memories of growing up in Sunset Park – where the Chinese American Queens College student had grown up with mostly Puerto Rican neighbors – that spurred her to action. Those neighbors “treated me like family,” said Chu. They also took care of her when her mother was at work, welcomed her into their lives and shared their culture, teaching her recipes and dance steps.

That bond led Chu, a psychology major, to volunteer for the NY Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative, launched by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. She was one of 196 students from the City University of New York – and one of eight of Asian descent – who have traveled to the island since June on two-week trips to fix ravaged homes, repairing doors, windows and roofs and removing mold. The last group of CUNY volunteers, reflecting the diversity of the university, returned to New York last week.

Volunteer Chu Chu Jiang, a College of Staten Island accounting major, helped raise roofs, install screens, paint walls, and she learned a lot about Puerto Rican culture while helping out. Queensborough Community College student Li Yang said she was moved to help when the hurricane news on TV triggered memories of the rural village of her childhood, and the help her family received when the village was heavily flooded several years in a row. She was touched by the appreciation shown by local residents. “They even cooked for us several times,” she said.

“I am so proud of the CUNY students who rose to the occasion and answered Governor Cuomo’s call to action to help Puerto Rico this summer,” said CUNY Trustee Kevin D. Kim, who travelled to Puerto Rico with students. “I witnessed firsthand the commitment and hard work of CUNY’s students to help their fellow Americans. It was a life-changing experience for all involved.”

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