Shelby: For most teens, spring break is a time to kick back, relax and maybe even take a vacation.
Are any of your friends on a beach somewhere sunny?
Monica Khan: Oh yeah! I have friends in, like, Panama City and Cancun. I keep looking at, like, Instagram and Facebook and seeing all of their pictures at the beach.
Lyssa Dueker: I know a few people from my school that, I think, are traveling in Europe and going away.
Shelby: But for these students, a week off of school means hard work.
Lyssa: We have to tear everything down, the floors, the ceiling, the walls. Everything has to go.
Monica: Yeah, we’re doing what the, like, fun party, like, spring break thing isn’t.
Shelby: It is called Spring Fix, an alternative spring break hosted by MTV and United Way to help rebuild areas hit by Superstorm Sandy in October of 2012.
Monica: When I saw this opportunity to do this, it kind of seemed like the only choice I had because while I could be, like, laying on the beach and, like, getting myself a suntan, there’s people who are really suffering.
Shelby: Superstorm Sandy was one of the costliest storms in U.S. history, and the billions of dollars worth of damage it left behind can still be seen in parts of New York and New Jersey. Many of the 650,000 homes that were damaged or destroyed are still in need of repair. And hours and hours of work are needed to get buildings like this back up and running.
This is the basement of a church in New York, and this area here used to be a childcare center. Now, in order to rebuild, they have to completely demolish everything first. And if you look over here in this hallway, this is the waterline. This is how high the water was after Superstorm Sandy hit.
As students worked to fix the damage, MTV stars also stopped by to lend them a hand, like World of Jenks creator Andrew Jenks.
Andrew Jenks: I think there’s a stereotype about, you know, young people that, you know, we only care about ourselves or our Facebooks. And I don’t think that’s true. I think that we want to help; it’s almost in us. We know that it’s a good thing to do.
Shelby: Jenks and the students demolition parts of the church.
Monica: We went around with a sledgehammer, like, breaking, like, all of the appliances, the walls. It was actually really empowering.
Eric Dolan: I had no idea that to remove tile you must chip it, like, a quarter inch so, like, just a little bit comes off and then a little bit more. It’s like this terrible, terrible puzzle game.
Shelby: It is hard work.
Socrates: Yeah, pretty much. Yes. Not your ideal spring break, but it’s all worth it.
Andrew: You know, I think a lot of times when devastation occurs, especially if it’s a natural disaster, you know, immediately everyone comes and helps. And what’s important is remembering and continuing to work hard in the months, and even years, after because a lot of times that’s when communities such as this need the most support.
Shelby: But it is not just communities benefitting from Spring Fix. Studies show that service projects like this can help volunteers make friends, gain self-esteem, combat depression and even learn valuable job skills.
Does Spring Fix trump spring break?
Lyssa: Oh totally! This is the most rewarding thing I have ever done!
Shelby: After demolition will come rebuilding. And the community hopes the church will be ready to use by summer.