Service in the Muck

At St. John’s University, we trace our founding to St. Vincent de Paul, and our work continues to be inspired by his zeal for service and compassion for the poor.  For law students, our Vincentian mission usually manifests itself through legal work in our clinics or in pro bono projects.  But sometimes, service is more manual than intellectual.  St. Vincent understood this: “Let us love God my brothers [and sisters], let us love God. But let it be with the strength of our arms and the sweat of our brow.”

On Sunday, November 11, 2012, a group of St. John’s law students put the strength of their arms and the sweat of their brows to work serving still-suffering storm victims.  Led by Professor Jennifer Baum, the students traveled to the Midland Beach section of Staten Island to help with the storm recovery effort.  They waded through mud, muck, water, and debris to clear out property damage, engage in demolition, and deliver supplies to the Miller Field FEMA center.

This service project is just one of the efforts being organized through our Pro Bono Hurricane Committee.  More information is available on the Committee’s STJLawSandy facebook page.

Prof. Jen Baum (in red) with law students Andry Henriquez, James Waller, and Jennifer Kwapisz.

In this video, students James Waller, Andry Henriquez, Jennifer Kwapisz talk about their work.  Another group of students helped in the demolition of a destroyed home.  The homeowners were overcome with gratitude and emotion, tearfully explaining how their two cats died in the flood waters when they were evacuated.

The basement in the home on the left was still filled with eight feet of water. On the right is the demolition crew of Katrina Dibbini, Angela Capello, Joe Reigadas, and Mike McDermott.

According to Professor Baum, the personal stories were difficult to hear, but each student left deeply moved by the experience, re-committed to service and mission. When asked what they would say to  classmates and colleagues thinking of coming into the disaster site to volunteer, they said in unison: “do it.”

Some lessons can’t be taught in the classroom.

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