PITTSBURGH-Five students from CCAC South Campus traveled to
Houston, Texas, this month to help residents who are still
struggling to recover from the disastrous flooding caused by
Hurricane Harvey, which caused at least 106 deaths in the U.S. last
August. The group spent four days in mid-May working with All Hands
and Hearts, a nonprofit organization that responds to natural
disasters by engaging volunteers from around the world to address
the immediate and long-term needs of impacted communities. The CCAC
students-Victor Yates, of Carrick; Wesley Molton-Greening, of South
Park; Kimberly Calderon Quintero, of Scott Township; Zeynep Koc, of
Greenfield; and Ashok Kadarya, of Whitehall; along with CCAC
Student Development Specialist Abby Hindman-were amazed by the
devastation they saw and how much work still needed to be done.
The volunteers worked from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in near
100-degree heat on a variety of projects, including painting,
hanging paneling, ripping up floors and "mucking and gutting" a
house that had not been touched since the flooding, resulting in
mold and rotting boards. The house had to be completely gutted and
rebuilt in order to bring a 14-year-old boy with cancer back home
to his family. The gratitude expressed by the boy's grandmother and
others for the volunteers' efforts made a significant impact on the
"It honestly changed the way I view my life," said
Yates, who has a renewed faith in the power of people working
together to repair and sustain their community. "I feel like
I'm a better leader, and I have a way better mindset. I'm more
appreciative of the things I have. So much can be taken away from
you in the blink of an eye."
The students also worked on the Rhodes School building, formally
a school for low-income and minority students studying performing
arts, which was destroyed by the hurricane. More than 80 percent of
the students were displaced to another school and, since then, only
40 percent of the students remain in school due to transportation
issues. For Yates, seeing smiles on the faces of the students, who
were attending school in a trailer, was well worth all of the work
he put in to build a handicapped ramp to the school.
The CCAC students learned many new technical skills-and so much
more. Although strangers at first, the diverse group, which
included immigrants from Nepal, Turkey and Columbia, have become
close friends through their shared experiences.
"This trip was a huge success," said Hindman, who
served as chaperone and worked alongside the students. "It was
so humbling for all of us-and everyone was willing to put aside
their own personal interests, come out of their comfort zone and
work together to help this community."
Originally offered as an alternative spring break, the trip had
to be rescheduled for various reasons. CCAC Student Life covered
the students' traveling expenses and also provided funds to
purchase the required steel-toed boots. The group was housed in a
church, where they lived communally with dozens of other volunteers
from around the country and the world.
The trip was not only a great experience. "It was just a
blessing," said Yates. "I would love to do this
again; I would do it as many times as I can."
To learn more about CCAC Student Life, go to ccac.edu/life.
Taking a break from their volunteer work in Houston are CCAC
South Campus students, from the left: Zeynep Koc, Victor Yates,
Ashok Kadariya, Kimberly Calderon Quintero and Wesley
CCAC South Campus students and Student Development Specialist
Abby Hindman gather for a group selfie at their host church.