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Memorial Day Weekend: Repair the World PeerCorps Alumni from Detroit to Aid Hurricane Harvey Recovery

"We were sifting through years of a family’s life and stuffing it into hefty bags to be taken away" - Max Feber, a Repair the World PeerCorps Detroit participant

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All photos courtesy of John Huang Photography.

A group of alumni from Repair the World’s PeerCorps Detroit (they were high school students during the program and now are college students) went to Houston for volunteer service and learning to aid in the continued recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey. In Houston they volunteered with Door l’door, Undies for everyone, SBP, and West Street Recovery.

The service trip was part of Act Now Houston (ANH), an initiative of the emerging Leadership Coalition for Jewish Service and the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, which places volunteer groups within ongoing recovery work coordinated by on-the-ground national and local agencies. Along with Repair the World, the Coalition includes BBYO, Hillel International, JDC Entwine, Moishe House, OneTable, and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. Through this program, the PeerCorps Detroit alumni spent 3 days in Houston participating in immersive service experiences that will connect them to the local Houston community and each other.

On Thursday night the group held some relationship building conversations.

On Friday morning the group went to the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston to learn about what exactly happened post Hurricane Harvey. They then toured the JCC next door and sat in a space that was completely under water post Harvey. They saw the construction that has been happening in the space that is still not complete today. They heard from one of the JCC’s Rabbi’s and about her experience during and post Harvey. They were then joined by a leader in the Jewish community who took them on a driving tour to see the different impacts the flood had on houses. Some houses were completely knocked down, some were being lifted, some families fled and moved away. The group was taken aback by the ways that neighborhoods could be impacted in different ways. They were able to draw parallels to blighted houses and neighborhood back in Detroit. In the afternoon, they went and volunteered with Undies for Everyone, an organization that packs and gives out clean underwear through hospitals and schools. In 2017, Undies for Everyone distributed 220,000 pairs of new underwear to local children in need. They packed around 2,000 pairs! After that they bought a challah at the local Jewish bakery, and then headed to help clean out the backyard of a family in Houston that was still removing wet items from their home 9 months later. They brought in Shabbat together and went to sleep ready for a big day of volunteering Saturday.

All photos courtesy of John Huang Photography.

Saturday they spent the service day helping to rebuild the home of an elderly Houstonian woman with SBP, a rebuild organization that aims to shrink the time between disaster and recovery. They volunteered alongside a few Houstonians, including a woman name Chava who taught us about her organization, Door L’Door which Provides new mezuzah’s to families that may have lost them in disaster. We spent the day sanding, mudding and drywalling the home. In the evening we found a local public pool to cool off in and headed back to our airbnb to cook dinner.

All photos courtesy of John Huang Photography.

Sunday they volunteered with an organization called West Street Recovery- a grassroots organization that mobilized after the flood. They met a lovely woman named Anita and helped to drywall almost her entire house during the day. They finished the trip with Havdallah in downtown Houston in the middle of a cityscape and headed home in the morning.