Tour leaders Andrea and Chris traveled with band member Peter Naffah to New York City in November of 2012 to volunteer for the Hurricane Sandy Relief Effort. We helped with supply delivery and restocking as well as demolition of damaged homes: even four weeks after the hurricane made landfall there was still plenty of work to be done! Our generous host was Andrea’s dear friend Keith Fasciani, an accomplished clown and circus performer living in the Bronx. He graciously welcomed us into his home and joined us in our volunteer efforts, keeping us laughing until our sides hurt all along the way. People banding together to accomplish great things is what the band is all about! We had a phenomenal time in New York, and we made sure to enjoy many of the things that make New York famous, including the best pizza, great cannolis, and traveling subway performers.

 

We helped clean people’s houses. We stayed at Keith’s — the clown guy. We did everything. I would like to go again.– Peter Naffah, band member

 

We were on the ground for three days: on the first day we visited Staten Island, where we volunteered for Make the Road New York, an organization which builds the power of Latino and working class communities to achieve dignity and justice through organizing, policy innovation, transformative education, and survival services. On the afternoon we volunteered, we helped build emergency supply bundles and then delivered them to families impacted by the hurricane. The destruction on Staten Island was devastating: we witnessed leaning foundations, mountains of destroyed materials still awaiting removal, and even a car suspended through the side of a house.

 

The next day we joined a community-organized crew based out of Greenpoint in Brooklyn, and we boarded buses bound for the Far Rockaways. This was one of the most severely impacted areas, and the gravity of the destruction was sobering. We helped strip drywall and bleach wall studs to guard against mold in the home of a woman in her 80s whose home was left standing under water. We sorted through boxes of wet Christmas ornaments and children’s art projects, and we mopped mud and grit from the floorboards of living rooms and kitchens. We passed police officers guarding the uninhabited blocks against looting, saw a boat washed up in the middle of the road, and skirted around the National Guard humvees parked outside the destroyed grocery store. It felt good to put on gloves and protective face masks and contribute to restoring the community. We were proud to be a part of “Team Awesome,” a motley crew of volunteers from all over the New York area.

 

On our third day of volunteering we dropped in to one of the service centers run by the people of Occupy Sandy. Using a beautiful large church in the heart of downtown Brooklyn as a base, the center worked as a gathering place for supplies, resources, and volunteers. We helped unpack a huge shipment from UPS, sorting the materials into categories including baby food, diapers, canned goods, clothing, toiletries, blankets, and other essential goods. It’s a good thing Chris has a sharp eye: he spied four cans of dog food mislabeled as soup for human consumption. We were able to move them over to the pet supplies area. Good save, Chris!

 

At the tour’s end, we felt humbled by the power of nature to wreak havoc with human plans. But we also felt uplifted by the tenacity of the human spirit: the compassion of our fellow volunteers, the courage of the families impacted by the disaster, and the humor of our host and dear friends sustained us and elevated our spirits. Buoyed by this faith in the power of people working together, Andrea and Peter updated the band groupies back at home with their traditional Australian-accent news report:

 

 

All in all, we returned to Denver with tired bodies but full hearts, inspired by the magnitude of what we’d witnessed. Most of all, we came away more certain than ever that all people must be included if our global community is to fully prosper. We all have moments of need, and we all have the ability to lend a hand.

 

Photo Gallery


Two expired IDs will not stop us...we made it through security. Rock and roll!Peter and his first subway ride.Wayfaring walk in the Bronx.The Leaf Lad.A beautiful evening filled with lovely, deep, and exploratory conversation over Italian food. Lights out! Tomorrow, Occupy Sandy.We have arrived at the ferry! Heading to Staten Island...
Our Lady Liberty.Organizing supplies. Peter doing what Peter does: folding clothes so we can build supply bundles for families. Team Wayfaring Band.Signs outside the Occupy Sandy gates advertise needs and services. Signs like these are posted on doors all over the neighborhood.Collapsed foundation.
Deserted street.A bulldozer pushes debris off the road in a mostly abandoned Staten Island neighborhood.Fallen trees and debris litter an empty lot.Riding the ferry with Katie, a freelance writer and lovely lady we volunteered with this afternoon. We ended our day with an exceptional pizza dinner with great company. Italian chefs are the BEST! Grazie, Ribalta Pizza!Taking a big yellow school bus to The Rockaways. The wheels go round and round!Cleaning supplies organized by crew.
The National Guard is in the house.Peter helps pick up pieces of wet drywall in an affected house. We sprayed the studs with bleach to fight mold. The remains of the kitchen. Team Wayfaring Band!The Junk Luggers are lugging our junk around today.Boat in the road.
We did some great work today in Howard Beach. Thanks to everyone for welcoming the out-of-towners!Peter is a cleaning machine.We cannot keep the house from leaning but we can clean all the crap out of the yard. FDNY!These kinds of things happen when you are staying with a clown.Doing good work in the presence of goodness.The organization dispatches drivers and crews of workers to sites all over the city.
The inside of this church has been converted into a receiving house for supplies.Cool and collected, Chris carries cargo. Andrea and Chris do what they do best: they drop some law and order onto organizational disasters. Stacks upon stacks of supplies. We carry on!Mutual aid, not charity.It looks like soup... but it is actually DOG FOOD. Good catch, Chris! Andrea organizes baby food and supplies.
The Brooklyn Bridge as seen from DUMBO.Tacos, empanadas, elote, chimichangas, tostones, and Mexican cokes. Yum!Operation Hurricane Sandy Recovery Effort was a terrific success!

 

It was such a pleasure following you on Facebook and seeing how you made a difference to so many people! Thanks for sharing with us and thank you so much for giving Peter this amazing experience!– Kathi Jensen, Peter’s mom