JUANA DIAZ, Puerto Rico (WATE) – Dozens of East Tennessee students are in Puerto Rico helping rebuild homes for hurricane victims.
The youth group from Central Baptist Church in Fountain City has spent the past week in the U.S. territory, which is still recovering from the destruction of Hurricane Maria nearly two years ago.
For the majority of the teens, this is the first time they have been to Puerto Rico, and they say being a part of the recovery effort has changed their perspectives.
“I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned is that you have to appreciate what you have because down here we’re really living on scraps and stuff,” said Tayte Belyea of Knoxville.
“Cold showers, it’s hot, there’s no AC in our rooms, ” Belyea said. “And just to see these people in the houses and just the conditions they’re in is really sad. But like I said, they’re really rebuilding.
“And honestly, because they don’t really have much, the people really appreciate our help. And they’re really really caring and sweet, probably more than some of the people in Knoxville.”
The Tennesseans are joined by other groups from North Carolina and the Washington, D.C., area. They head home Saturday.
The youth group is working with Mission Serve.
The teens and adults have been spread across 14 sites, working on 14 houses damaged by Hurricane Maria.
They are doing construction and painting in the town of Juana Diaz in the southern part of the island, about an hour and a half from San Juan.