York MSW Student Volunteers to Build Back Puerto Rico

When Governor Andrew M. Cuomo solicited the participation of CUNY students for his "New York Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative," York College student Marie Ange Richard was one of several (York ) students who signed up for the volunteer opportunity this summer.

 She recently graduated from York with her BSW and is now a student in the College’s MSW program. In an email exchange with the Office of Marketing and Communications, Richard shared her life-changing experience doing her part to help her fellow-Americans in Puerto Rico.

What was it like helping the people of Puerto Rico in this way following Hurricane Maria?

This experience was one of the best experiences of my life. When I landed in Puerto Rico, I was in shock. Ten months after a natural disaster, you can still see the [impact]. When I was on the bus I was looking out the window, I saw a lot of damage. I could still see the watermarks on the high way walls and some of the light poles were on the ground some of the palm trees looked damaged. After visiting Puerto Rico, I felt powerful because I was able to put a roof over a family’s house.

What did you learn from the experience?

I learned a lot. I learned about the culture of Puerto Rico. Most importantly, I learned a lot about myself. I learned not to take a lot of things for granted. While in Puerto Rico, I was excited at nights whenever we saw an illuminated street. Some places in Puerto Rico still don’t have electricity.

Would you volunteer in this manner again?

I would definitely volunteer again, as a social worker, it is in my blood to go out and help people [who] are in need. I would love to form my own student group to go out and volunteer.

What would you want to say to your fellow students about the trip?

To my fellow students, I would say this trip has changed my life. I want them to go out and give back. A good thing about the trip was [that] all expenses were paid - I want my fellow-students to know that.

What would you like to say to Student Development about providing you this opportunity?

Thank you very much Student Development for giving me the opportunity to go out and help. I would like to also thank Dr. Selena Rodgers from the Social work department, Ebonie Jackson & Cassita Charles from the Women’s Center and Dr. Jean Phelps from Student Activities for preparing me mentally for this trip.