‘Our home does not look like our home:’ Cleveland teachers, students arrive in Puerto Rico for service project

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico—Students and teachers from Cleveland’s Lincoln-West School Global Studies chatted with FOX 8 via Skype Wednesday from Puerto Rico. The team of six students and four teachers traveled to Puerto Rico to help with recovery efforts still underway, six months after Hurricane Maria destroyed the island.

“We are very excited, it’s very emotional. The weather is amazing. We did not expect it to be this hot. There’s no rain the skies are clear,” said teacher Rosa Cruz, from inside the group’s van.

“We already have seen a lot of tarps on top of the houses, blue tarps and that just means there is no roof so that touched me a lot; I was almost in tears when I saw it,” said Awilda Morales, another teacher at the school.

First the group will be volunteering at a school in the southern part of the island. They will be painting murals and delivering much-needed supplies. “We’re going to help them pretty much get back on their feet, make sure they have supplies, fans, flashlights -- help them with everything that we can,” Cruz said.

Then they will help out at an orphanage in another area of the island. “We’re going to make a garden for them...going to work on a vegetable and fruit garden so they can have a good food resource,” Cruz said.

Several of the students and teachers have family members who live in Puerto Rico and were impacted by the storm. “I know that we are going to do some amazing things here, but I wish we could help the whole entire island,” Morales said.

“It’s devastating to see how our home does not look like our home anymore,” Cruz said.

The teachers say the trip is about helping others while expanding their students’ horizons.

“Well, that’s one of our missions at Global Studies - is to get the students not only involved in their community and the nation, but other countries, especially our neighboring territories,” said Vincente Suarez, a teacher at the school.

And in the end, bring a spirit of service with them back home here to Northeast Ohio.

“If we teach them that they can make a difference here, when we come back they will have the same motivation to do something about the situation in Cleveland,” Cruz said.

More on Hurricane Maria.