Posted on behalf of Luan “Jonathan” Dong, who is attending graduate school at George Washington University and interning for Greenpeace in Washington, DC.
When you tell your family in China that you are going to the United States for a Master’s degree, or tell your friends that you are going to New York City, you would never imagine end up being here.
Here is Rockaway Park, Queens, New York City. Assumed by many people to be full of summer resorts, Rockaway in fact has a significant portion of impoverished or isolated, if not homeless, residents. More shocking is the scene that greeted us: a scene of total devastation.
This is nothing like the New York City that I knew of, nor does it resemble any part of the United States that I have ever been. Rockaway Beach has been mostly destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. And before Rockaway residents could even catch their breath, a Nor’easter was already here to add insult to injury. The storms have left many people dependent on incoming aid for food and provisions.
Why are we here? Same as many volunteers and doctors, we are here to offer help. Hurricane Sandy destroyed the power grid and any attempt to reconnect the downed power lines would be a fire hazard. Greenpeace is helping by powering a community center nicknamed YANA (You Are Not Alone) to receive and sort clothing, food and other donations. The block next to YANA is destroyed.
In the blustery wind, more people are coming to offer help. Doctors from all directions are asking what needs to be done, who needs to be taken care of, discussing what to do each day in regular late night meetings. Greenpeace helped set up the first stable medical clinic in the area:
Volunteers are categorizing donations to be taken away. People from outside the area are driving in with hot food. A couple operating a restaurant in Long Island not only brought food, but also stayed an entire day preparing and distributing it at YANA in front of the Rolling Sunlight. They were later joined by a local girl named Hope and a boy named Jasir.
Fuel Relief Fund is giving away gasoline for free. These volunteers’ time, equipment and trucks are all donated.
Thankfully, the weather warmed up on Thursday. The Rolling Sunlight opened up and unfurled all of its solar panels.
In the blizzard, we served hot chicken soup and heated the new medical clinic. More electricity, more heat, more hot food, more warm people, more warm hearts.
The Rolling Sunlight demonstrates how useful energy from the sun is here and now, quietly powering the community center right in the midst of the Nor’easter, right in front of unimaginable ruins.
When you see a devastation like this, you would think there is no hope. I thought that too. On Friday, however, I hear cheers, I see hugs, I see smiles. I see more strangers’ faces coming and helping out. I hear exciting news that more are on their way. I hear “thank you,” repeatedly. Just now, I overheard someone say, “I don’t know you, but I love you.”