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“Give where we live” is the mantra of Rutgers’ Student Volunteer Council, which scholarship recipient and Branchburg, New Jersey, native Henah Parikh codirects. So after Hurricane Sandy tore through her home state last October, Parikh SAS’13, SC&I’13 was among the first in line to help. Three days after the storm, she headed to the Werblin Recreation Center on Rutgers–New Brunswick’s Busch Campus, which was being used as an emergency shelter for evacuees. Here is her account of the experience.

Why did you volunteer at the Werblin center?
I was lucky enough to have power 12 hours after the storm, and I felt compelled to help the victims because it easily could have been my family in that situation.

What was it like to be there?
There must have been 500 to 600 evacuees from South Jersey there. I hung out with the children in the family section for four hours. It was incredibly heartbreaking; I had volunteered in similar situations, but never so close to home. One little boy named Jonathan was celebrating his fifth birthday. For most people that would be devastating, but he was so happy.

What impact did meeting the evacuees have on you?
It was scary and surreal to realize that it could have been me in that position; natural disasters don’t discriminate. I tried to keep a positive attitude even though it was truly devastating to hear the stories about families losing their homes to flooding or fires. I really do want to continue to assist with Hurricane Sandy disaster relief when I can because this is a long-term recovery, and I want to help our New Jersey family.

You have received four donor-funded scholarships toward your double major in psychology and communication at Rutgers. How did those scholarships influence you and your volunteer work?
They have made me go above and beyond in my studies. I feel that if someone is putting faith—and money—in me, then I should try to excel. And I believe I have: my current GPA is 3.9. I feel that everyone should have access to higher education, and when I graduate, I plan to continue my volunteering. It’s easy to get caught up in daily life, but I’ll always make time to give back. It’s the least I can do.

Originally published in Rutgers alumni magazine. Photography by Anthony Colella.

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