UNC students spending their fall break helping Hurricane Florence victims

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Like thousands of other UNC-Chapel Hill students this week, these undergrads could have gone home. They could have gone anywhere. But they decided they wanted to go to Robeson County. They chose to go to the heart of the storm zone left devastated by Hurricane Florence. They’re spending their fall break giving back.

“I’m just trying to do the best I can to give a hug or lend an ear for people so I can listen to their stories,” said UNC first-year student Shatera McNair.

She and her eight classmates were loading up their minivans in Chapel Hill on Wednesday night with the supplies they’ll need for three days volunteering in the storm zone.

They watched Hurricane Florence leave communities to the south and east underwater. Robeson County was devastated again, two years after Hurricane Matthew’s wrath.

Michelle He is a sophomore from Chicago. On this trip, she’s the team leader.

“I literally just said, I don’t know anything about rural communities; I’ve never experienced a hurricane,” He said. “And I just want to learn as much as they want to learn.”

The students’ trip is part of UNC’s Apples Service Learning Courses aimed at extending learning beyond the classroom.

“So the name of the trip is Alternative Fall Break: Rural Communities,” said student Amy Cockerham.

This group of nine will link up with the United Way and other service groups helping in the clean-up and rebuild.

And at the same time, they will likely get a test of their own in comfort and empathy.

“I think it’s really important to give up your fall break because there’s always people in need. And, at some point, you’re probably going to be in need,” said Cockerham. “So might as well pay it forward while you can.”

To be a part of this program, students have to commit to serving a minimum of 30 hours with a community partner. This group may very well satisfy that requirement on this trip alone, helping Florence victims in and around Lumberton for the next three days…

They are set to return to Chapel Hill on Sunday.

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