Natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods and hurricanes, leave a devastating impact on communities. In 2016, major hurricanes left behind destruction and floods, leaving hundreds of people homeless. One such hurricane was Hurricane Matthew.
A Category 5 and best remembered for the skull shaped system, Hurricane Matthew hit the east coast, forming in the Caribbean and moving to Southeast U.S. The media covers these events, but after a week, they move on to the next breaking news story. Although the world continues on for most, those affected by the hurricanes are left scared, homeless and alone.
Pastor Derek Wadlington and nine students teamed up with thirteen volunteers from Lend A Hand, a disaster relief agency of the Presbytery of Carlisle. On Jan. 14, Wadlington and the students traveled to a United Methodist Committee on Recovery (UMCOR) location in Tarboro, NC. From there, they learned that they would be helping the town of Princeville, NC.
Princeville, NC was struck hard when Hurricane Matthew hit. Within twenty-four hours, the town was flooded by seventeen inches of rain., which is located near the Tar River. A levee failed, flooding the town and closing it for a month. Princeville is full of history; it was the first free town for African Americans since the mid-1700s. With a population of 2,000, many had to move into temporary housing or left to stay with family when Hurricane Matthew hit.
Pastor Wadlington and the students learned new skills that they may not have tried otherwise. During the course of the week, they assisted in rebuilding twelve houses. Wadlington said, “A sampling of the work we performed was installing insulation in the crawl space under two houses, replacing a floor and installing some doors in another, and removing of two layers of shingles, repairing damaged sections of underlayment, and installing a new roof on another house.”
As they week went on, the Wilson crew and the Lend A Hand volunteers became a cohesive crew. While the student’s ages ranged from 18 to 23, the volunteers from Lend A Hand were between 62 to 80 years. Despite the big age difference, the volunteers were excited to work with the students. Wadlington commented, “There was a camaraderie between the groups that melded us into a team.” The volunteers were retirees or people that used vacation time to help the town in need.
During the week, homeowners would stop by to see the progress being made on their homes. Once destroyed by a hurricane, their houses are now beginning to look like homes again. Wadlington added, “While it was satisfying to accomplish things, even more rewarding was the opportunity to meet several of the homeowners. The look of hope that beamed on their faces as they saw, finally, the chance that they might soon be able to occupy their homes again or, for those who managed to stay in their home, that their lives might actually return to a sense of normalcy.”
With the great success that Wadlington and the students experienced, he hopes to coordinate more trips in the future, the next one possibly in May 2018. He mentioned, “There is a great interest in doing these relief trips and I want to support this.”
As a last thought, Wadlington said, “This was the best experience we could have hoped for.”