Beth Diesch, a second-year master’s student in the Silver School of Social Work, was climbing 29 flights of stairs on Friday, Nov. 2 in complete darkness at 505 LaGuardia Place when an elderly woman stepped into the hall. She was approximately 70 years old, and even with her curly brown hair, she was still under five feet tall. The woman was blind, hungry and needed help. Diesch entered the blind woman’s apartment, helped her separate cans of soup from Chef Boyardee and made her a tuna fish sandwich on whole wheat bread.
That same day, the fourth one Lower Manhattan residents were surviving without power, approximately 40 NYU students like Diesch spent the afternoon delivering bottled water and Federal Emergency Management Agency meals to residents in Greenwich Village as part of a relief effort led by congressman Jerrold Nadler, according to Alicia Hurley, vice president of government affairs and community engagement at NYU. Earlier that day, Diesch and other students delivered care packages full of nonperishable food, blankets and homemade cards to elderly citizens housed in apartment buildings around Washington Square Park.
“There are people within our general vicinity that still need assistance, especially … the elderly who are unable to get out of their apartments and do a lot of things on their own,” Diesch said.
Despite the fact that hundreds of students became refugees last week when 12 residence halls lost power late Monday night, the NYU student body and staff recognized the need to serve their surrounding community. Both relief efforts, sponsored by the Center for Student Activities, Leadership and Service, revealed students’ and staff members’ drive to help. Roopa Raman, a second-year master’s candidate in the School of Social Work, participated in both projects after she lost power in Palladium residence hall.
“It’s a testament to the fact that if you feel like you have a little bit more right now than [other] people, it’s important you put yourself out there and help,” Raman said. “This is where I need to be putting my energy.”
A few blocks away, nursing students and faculty tended to seniors living behind Bobst Library. The College of Nursing and the Visiting Nurse service of New York led the Elder Care Recovery Effort, according to Amy Knowles, assistant dean for student affairs and admissions at the College of Nursing. Over 50 students and 15 faculty members spent two days ensuring the elderly had medication and other necessities as well as calling rescue units if ambulances were needed.
“I am so proud of my nursing students,” Knowles said. “This was a time when people were just selfless and saying, ‘What can I do? How can I help?’”
While relief efforts sprouted in Greenwich Village, CAS sophomore Perla Alvarez was in Chinatown delivering shopping bags full of batteries, food and water to residents at 65 Broome St. with the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence, an organization that builds power among poor and working class Asian immigrants. After helping those in need on Friday afternoon, Alvarez realized her volunteer efforts will not stop anytime soon.
“It’s imperative to know that, while we have our lights back and we have our water and our heat back, there are so many people who don’t,” Alvarez said. “We need to get out there and help them get back to a semi-normal life because it’s going to take a lot longer than it took us.”
Even though Consolidated Edison has restored power to the city, the need for assistance is still strong, and members of the NYU community can help.
“As members of a community, we look out for one another,” said Adam Ebnit, associate director of the Center for Student Activities, Leadership and Service. “When there is a need, we do our best to respond. That is what community is about and what is continually being demonstrated by NYU students, faculty and staff.”
In the coming weeks, the university will continue their relief efforts in and around the city. Students are encouraged to check NYU’s website for further volunteer opportunities.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov. 5 print edition. Krisitina Bogos is a staff writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.