International students volunteer alongside The Salvation Army in Hurricane Ida relief efforts

Sep 1, 2021 | by Brad Rowland

International students volunteer alongside The Salvation Army in Hurricane Ida relief efforts

By: Philip Burn

Word spread quickly in Hammond, La., that a group was serving food at Zemurray Park on Tuesday. A steady line of cars reaching around the block greeted The Salvation Army mobile kitchen from Pasadena, Tex., as it pulled into the parking lot.

Alicia, Nuria, and Paula are international music students from Spain enrolled in the master's program at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond. Alicia read on Instagram that lunch would be provided at the park, so the friends ventured out on their bicycles to see what they could find. They have been without power since Hurricane Ida moved through the area on Sunday, Aug. 29.

The students have been in Louisiana for less than a month as classes started on Aug. 9. The news of an approaching hurricane was particularly frightening and daunting for the young women.

"I was very afraid as we don't have hurricanes in Spain," said Nuria. "We put our clothes and belongings into bags and left our instruments in the music school as we didn't want them to be damaged."

Hurricane Ida caused loss of power in Hammond, along with many other communities in the region.

"The power went out about 6 p.m. on Sunday,” Alicia said. “We prepared for the worst and stayed in our apartment once the storm began.”

The girls were among the first people to greet Captain Dante Salgado and his crew once the mobile kitchen was in position.

"We had just started to set up and they asked if there was anything they could do to help," said Capt. Salgado. "In no time at all they were behind the serving table passing out hot dog plates and water to the line of cars. They took over the entire operation!"

After more than two hours serving grateful individuals and families from the community, the last plate was served.

"We were very sad in our apartment this morning and came out today to find some help for ourselves," said Nuria. "After meeting up with The Salvation Army team it was so nice to help other people in the same position as us, without power, and struggling."

"We prepared for the storm as best we could. Other than losing power we are fine," said Alicia. "It was good to get out of the apartment and I enjoyed helping today."

The team served 1,748 meals in Hammond on Tuesday, Aug. 31, enjoying great support from the community and local law enforcement. The Pasadena mobile kitchen will continue service in Hammond on Wednesday, Sept. 1, while 10 additional units from Texas will work in other impacted communities. Seven additional units arrived on the evening of Aug. 31 from The Salvation Army in Arkansas and Oklahoma to support response efforts.

"I was feeling very homesick this morning, missing my family and my boyfriend. I like it here, but my English is not great, so sometimes it can be very difficult and discouraging,” said Paula. “It was hot and hard work, but it felt good to help. There were so many people! I'm hoping we can come back and help The Salvation Army again tomorrow."

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