1.) For my STEP project, I chose to do volunteer work in California. The volunteering I did was for the wildfire relief effort in Paradise, California. During my time volunteering, I participated in many events such as loading crates of clean water into cars, sorting and organizing different supplies, packaging food, and building storage tents.
2.) When I first arrived to paradise, I was confused to where I was because everything around me was either burned to the ground or under construction. I quickly realized that this was the aftermath of the wildfire. What I was seeing was what was left of the town of Paradise. All that was left was the church where I was stationed, and a hospital. Seeing this made me realize the extent of the damage done not only to this town but to the entire community.
With this knowledge and experience, I was able to relate to different countries who have gone through natural disasters as well. Unfortunately many of these countries did not receive the amount of support that California has received. People out there are still left struggling not only with their living situations but also with their health. Clean water is a necessity to all but there are many people who still do not have this basic need.
3.) Most of my time spent in California was loading crates of clean water into peoples cars. This allowed me to talk to each and every person who sought out help. Almost every person who came to us had their home burned down and were left with nowhere to go. Thankfully there were small homes and trailers set up for the victims to live in after the fire. Hearing each story and experience that these victims went through gave me a reality check and showed me how impactful the work I was doing was for the community.
I remember one older lady pulled up for water. She seemed as if she could not accept that everything was gone. When she pulled up, the first thing I noticed was that she could not stop crying. The way she acted was as if she was lost with no where to go. This really opened my eyes to the real world. It was hard to watch, knowing that I could not do more for her. Despite not being able to help any further, being able to provide clean water, food, and other supplies was very gratifying. Many people expressed their thanks thoroughly as me and my fellow volunteers assisted them.
Although the work we were doing was very helpful, the number of volunteers there were quite lacking. I was by far the youngest there. Everyone else was at least over the age of 45. Seeing this made me wonder why more people were not volunteering. There was one man who I helped on my first day there who was so grateful that he decided to volunteer as well. I was very impressed by his dedication because he had no obligation to do so at the age of 73. Together, we loaded car after car with clean water.
4.) This experience was very valuable to me because it got me out of my comfort zone, into the real world. It showed me how devastating natural disasters can be and how many people are affected by them. Being able to meet many different victims face to face and hearing their stories and woes make my personal problems seem insignificant. There is always someone who has it worse than you and all this time before, I had taken that blessing for granted. Following this experience, my desire to help others has increased significantly. I believe that this will help me professionally because I now know that each person has their own problems that require a unique way to fix.