Rockwell native volunteers for Puerto Rico hurricane recovery

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 16, 2018

Purchase College, SUNY

PURCHASE, N.Y. — Last spring, SUNY partnered with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to support recovery and rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico after last year’s devastating hurricane.

The university asked for student volunteers for the SUNY Stands With Puerto Rico initiative.

Two students from Purchase jumped at the chance to lend a hand, including Patrick Moore, an acting major from Rockwell. The students each spent two weeks this summer restoring homes devastated by Hurricane Maria last September.

“I saw an email about an upcoming program which would consist of student involvement in Puerto Rico supported by and through the SUNY system,” Moore said. “My immediate reaction was, ‘I absolutely have to apply. Thank God someone out there is making the effort to do something.’

“I applied that night knowing if I were selected, I would be highly committed to doing the most I could in two weeks. I study in the BFA acting program here at Purchase and had some very special words to go by. During one of our final days of class, our acting teacher, Trazana Beverley, left us with the quote, ‘To those who much is given, much is expected.’

“Much had been given to me. I am an out-of-state student who (albeit with some loans and tons of arrangements) has been given quite the opportunity, studying what I love in such a vibrant community. So, in short, this was my way of fulfilling that quote — or at least part of it.

“My experience is one of many words and images, of which I am more than happy to share. The second home my team was assigned to was owned by a woman named Emma. Every day — and I’m not over exaggerating — she would ask us to stop working on her roof, come inside, and have a meal with her and her family. She invited 14 strangers into her home and fed us all daily. This woman’s home was severely damaged by a hurricane, yet she still invited us in and cooked for us.

“The situation in Puerto Rico is this: These are humans who are still without a place to call home. For the folks we met, they had a home, but the conditions were in a desperate state. If I had the opportunity to stay longer, I would do so gladly.

“Our federal government still has a lot of steps left to take in terms of repairing infrastructure there. In fact, most of the streetlights in San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, were still without power. As you go deeper into the mountainous parts of the island, people have even less to count on in terms of electricity and water. It is still yet to be restored nearly a year later.

“I’m a sophomore BFA acting major. The study of people, conditions of living, and body language all apply to my studies. In Puerto Rico, I received the opportunity to study and see all three in action. People living with what they’ve got, making the most in a time of need. Kindness and heartache.

“It gave me a direct insight to what trauma can do to people, and how those involved continue to make the most of their situation. Even though I speak very little Spanish, I was still able to communicate through simple gestures.”