CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – It’s one thing to see Hurricane Harvey’s devastation on television. It’s a whole different experience to see the destruction in person. Members of the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Por Colombia student group saw first-hand what Mother Nature was capable of when they volunteered time in both Aransas Pass and Rockport, cleaning up what Harvey left behind. They also saw first-hand the resiliency of those small coastal towns.
“We loved the way the community has come together to help each other,” said Sergio Santos, an Islander Mechanical Engineering student, and member of the local chapter of Por Colombia. “While cleaning-up, several people stopped by to ask if we needed help or water. We also ran into people whose house was affected but suggested we help someone else that needed it more than themselves.” Santos is also a member of the Marine Corp reserve.
Por Colombia is the largest organization of students and professionals with Colombian background living in North America. Their mission is to promote cultural, professional and philanthropic initiatives that raise awareness about a stronger, safer and dynamic Colombia.
Earlier this week, the local chapter reached out to their members via social media to assist in volunteer clean-up efforts, and the response was overwhelming.
“I think the realization that our homes in Corpus Christi were spared, but that these other people – only a few miles away – lost everything – was a huge contributor to our desire to help,” said Sebastian Garzon, Por Colombia group member and two-time Islander alum. Garzon also works at the Coastal Bend Business Innovation Center, which operates under the College of Business at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
During the clean-up effort, the group helped remove downed trees, trash and other debris.
“We saw many destroyed building and streets, and trash was everywhere,” said Garzon. “On one day, we helped a 78-year-old woman who lives alone, and had just gotten out of the hospital. Coincidentally, it was also her birthday! We helped her clean her yard. She was so appreciative.”
There are 13 Por Colombia chapters around the nation, and the local chapter is working to coordinate a nationwide Por Colombia fundraising campaign for Harvey victims. The group will be back out in Rockport on Saturday, Sept. 2 to volunteer.
“We are proud to represent the Island University through this volunteer effort because we see it as a way to give back to the community that’s providing us with professional and personal growth opportunities,” said Garzon.