Late last October, Sison turned a 16th birthday celebration in Rincon, Puerto Rico, into a service trip. The Lake Ridge Academy junior from Bay Village and two friends spent a couple hours each of their five days in the seaside community he describes as “the surfing capital of the Caribbean” helping local nonprofit RBC Maria Relief clean up the damage wrought by Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm that devastated the island weeks earlier.
The first thing I said to my mom was, “Wow.” I’d been here for the past six years, and it looked completely different.
[The] Rincon Surf Resort, that’s where we stayed. One of the people there was part of RBC Maria Relief. We decided to go and help out.
RBC [asked] us to clean up this school that had been pretty much demolished by fallen trees during Maria. We took giant machetes and chopped down bushes and stuff that were in the way, that had fallen.
They brought around water for all of the volunteers. But it was scorching hot, and it was very physical work, trying to move stuff around, chop something down and then chuck it up into the flatbed [truck], which is 2 to 4 feet off the ground.
[My friends and I] had a lot of fun, just hacking away at all of it. It felt good — seeing all the downed trees on the school and helping rebuild it really made me feel like I was doing something productive. Our aid helped the school reopen earlier. — as told to Lynne Thompson