Work and Travel Participants Volunteer After Natural Disaster

By Leslie Corn

Volunteerism | #CENETJ1 #GlobalCitizen

Recently, a group of Summer Work and Travel (SWT) participants experienced a natural disaster when flash flooding sent their host community into a state of emergency.

CENET visited the community and checked in with the participants regularly; the participants were safe, but their routine had been disrupted. They had been evacuated from their housing and they were temporarily unable to work due to the condition of their host company.

Instead of complaints from the participants, CENET received messages of compassion, hope, and a deep sense of community– a sense which led many of them to volunteer in the wake of the disaster.

A sampling of their messages may be found below:

I am working as a volunteer and  I am more than happy to help  restore the life in White Sulfur Springs. I think this is what we should do after such a disaster.

-Vera, Hungary

I miss working in the hotel, but that will change when they reopen hotel. It´s my pleasure to help people who were affected by flooding.

-Lukas, Slovakia

We are glad to help. We are all doing well.

-Phuong, Hungary

I am really good now. It has been a great thing to help the others who are suffering now– those who lost their houses and those who cannot live in their own houses. For me, it was a little bit hard to see the sad eyes and some people were crying and asked me for hug, I am so sorry for them. But I am so happy as well to help them and make their day a little bit better! I really appreciate the help my host company gave to the local people. My host company gave them a home, food,everything. It is wonderful. I am happy that I can work here.

First of all, volunteering has a lot of benefits, like making contact with other people, helping those who need it, and the most important: it really contributes to you personally. I am sure those who serve as a volunteer will appreciate things more than they used to. They can learn how to work in a group and how to cooperate with others. As I saw, if a community has serious problem, like now in West Virginia, people help each other no matter what is happening. When you take part in that kind of volunteering, you will realize you can be in this situation as well. If it were you, you would need help as well.

I am the kind of person who likes helping. I always try to do my best and I am able to feel their emotions. I am a really emotional person. I can be sad when I look at the faces , but I am happy as well when I can give them a hug and they become more happy, however it is just a hug, it means a lot for them.

My personality has grown a lot from this. I learnt how to accept each other, how to be more patient. Not just see people, but listen to them. I got to know more people who have a similar personality as I have,  who are willing to be there all day in order to help — and not for pay. This is the real,unconditional  love. I am really really sure I am not going to forget this disaster and the volunteering! I hope I can help others in future, too.

-Petra, Hungary

There are many different benefits to volunteering. For example, it allows you to develop yourself as a person, through growing your confidence and creating a feeling of well being in knowing that you are helping others. Also the benefit of volunteering is for people you are helping, as it allows them to feel better knowing people care about them and want to do all they can to help.

It is important to unite in the wake of a natural disaster for many reasons. This includes that through uniting following a natural disaster, it allows gives the opportunity to bring people closer together through helping as many people as possible with the rebuilding process. This may include helping those who have lost loved ones or whose homes have been destroyed by the disaster.

Uniting is also important as it generates the opportunity to create equality among everyone. This may include bringing people together from different cultures or religious backgrounds. Uniting creates teamwork and leadership, in order to help discover the best way possible to help with the situation people are placed within.

The flash flooding hit the state of West Virginia USA and severely impacted the town of White Sulfur Springs. This is where I was living and the event has led to great personal growth for me. This includes volunteering during the cleanup effort following the flood. I have been put outside my own personal motivations in order to help others. For example, when I saw the devastation firsthand it hit me with great emotion to think about those who have lost their lives or homes. However, I managed to overcome this by thinking to myself that I must help as many people as possible because of how greatly it would be appreciated.

I did this by walking around town and asking people if they needed help. Through doing this it allowed me to meet many people who said they greatly appreciated my help, which therefore helped me to feel better in myself.

Following the natural disaster which struck my host city, it has allowed me to feel more connected to my host city for a number of reasons. This includes that it has touched me greatly, through experiencing the community coming closer together to do all they can to help each other even if they have been affected themselves.  It has allowed me to meet many different people from different organizations such as both the National Guard and the American Red Cross, many of whom have worked tirelessly to help with the cleanup effort.

Following the flash flood I have had many stories which have been shared with me which I will never forget. This includes meeting a pensioner who was stuck on the first floor in her friend’s house and had to wait six hours to be rescued, because of how dangerous the rising flood waters were. During the rescue the vehicle she was being rescued in nearly fell into the flood waters and she thought she was going to die. When telling me this story she got very emotional and I had to comfort her. I also met a husband and wife whose cat was left in the house during the rising flood waters as they had to escape quickly but miraculously it managed to survive.

There is great community spirit here whereby people have come together to help those in need. I have seen this especially when volunteering in my host community and going around to help those in need. Through doing this it has also allowed me to meet some amazing, courageous people who I now keep in regular contact with. This experience has also allowed me to learn of some incredible stories– many of which I will never forget. I have also learnt the importance of working together.

-Ben, United Kingdom

Although an ideal program excludes natural disasters, the empathy, humanity, and spirit of volunteerism our participants showcased are qualities we hope are fostered within all participants during their J-1 exchanges.

CENET strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration.For more news and updates about CENET, please visit our Facebook Page.

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