ASB 2018 – Texas – Day 2

Twenty-four students and four advisers from Penn State Behrend are participating in an Alternative Spring Break service trip to Beaumont, Texas. The group will be helping residents recover from the catastrophic flooding that occurred as a result of Hurricane Harvey, which hit the greater Houston area in August of 2017, causing at least $125 billion in damages and claiming 108 lives. Behrend’s ASB group is being joined by five other Penn State campuses, including Greater Allegheny, Harrisburg, Scranton, University Park, and York.

By Heather Cass

Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communication, and 2018 ASB participant

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Day 2 – Cultural Day

It seems weird to start a week of service with a vacation day, but that’s how it works best with the schedule, so Sunday was our day to learn more about the area and explore Houston.But, first, a shower.
Here is where we shower:

These are shower trailers. Each contains five to six showers, there are three trailers total, split evenly among men and women.
As I showered, I marveled at the engineering and ingenuity involved in a mobile showering unit that I’m sure is a relief in any disaster situation. (Who doesn’t love a good shower?)
The cots that we are sleeping on and the trailers that we are showering in are the same as those used in disaster relief efforts. The difference, of course, is that we have all our possessions (the stuff we could fit in a suitcase under 50 lbs.) and intact homes to return to.
Our situation is temporary. For victims of Hurricane Harvey, though, the disaster continues.
The shower trailers, cots, crowded conditions (nearly 200), and food lines are a good remind of the reason we are here.
Today (Monday), we’ll get a first look at what is left to do and how we can help.
Ah….but, back to our day off.
First stop for the Behrend ASB group was the NASA Johnson Space Center, so the engineering students could geek out and the rest of us could be seriously awed by the history and future of space travel.
More than a few times I found myself standing with a member of our group, slack-jawed at the technology, flight memorabilia, and accomplishments of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) since it was established by the United States government in 1958.
NASA occupies 1,620 acres southeast of downtown Houston, in the Clear Lake area of Texas, and employs 3,200 people, more than a few of them are Penn State Behrend, including flight director Mary Lawrence ’01, a mechanical engineering major.
Among the cool things we saw was how NASA viewed Hurricane Harvey from the International Space Station:

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After spending about three hours at the space museum, we had lunch at a waterfront buffet and wandered around the wharf for a bit before journeying to downtown Houston to have a look at the city.

After a late dinner at a local Tex-Mex restaurant, we headed back to the church and our cots to prepare for our first day of work on hurricane cleanup.
We don’t know where we are going or what we are doing (We’ll learn that after breakfast), but we’re sure it will be both hard and rewarding work.

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