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Teens On Probation Help Victims of Hurricane Sandy

Teens On Probation Help Victims of Hurricane Sandyi
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August 14, 2013
Many victims of Hurricane Sandy are still in distress. But a new army of helpers has joined the recovery effort -- and they're coming from a source you might not expect. VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York City communities still struggling to recover.
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Bernard Shusman
— Many victims of Hurricane Sandy are still in distress.  But a new army of helpers has joined the recovery effort -- and they're coming from a source you might not expect. 

Helpers are clearing a road at Breezy Point so government four-wheelers can access the beach and take care of wildlife there.

They are also helping victims of Hurricane Sandy by preparing food packages for them.

The helpers are New York City teens, who have been convicted of non violent crimes and are now on probation.

They too are being helped -- by a non profit group called YouthWRAP.  It helps teenage offenders break free of juvenile crime through community-oriented projects.

“The more time they spend doing good, the less time they are going to spend doing bad as far as we are concerned.  So part of it is for them to turn their lives around, part of it is for them to really do the work that New York City needs to recover from Sandy,” explained Vincent Schiraldi, New York City's Probation Commissioner.

During the storm, Breezy Point roads were washed out .  An electrical fire destroyed more than a hundred homes.  Teen probationers recognize the loss. "Actually what it means to me, that one, it was a bad thing. Two, right now actually means a lot cause I get to help people," stated one teen.

Not far away, in Brooklyn, Coney Island’s Salt and Sea Mission is working with YouthWrap, giving other teen offenders the chance to do good.  The Mission takes care of neighbors whose homes were destroyed.  

“Today we are giving out green beans, macaroni and cheese, diced tomatoes, apple sauce, apple juice, pesto beans, no kidney beans, and maple and the peanut butter,” stated another teen.

Teens in the program get paid up to $1400 (USD) for the summer.  But the the responsibility they take on is what drives them.

“It means a lot to me, helping people, this [is] new me. I was younger and all I knew was to do bad…and this program basically changed my life cause I actually started helping  people," said Daquan Jackson. "I started preparing stuff, it taught me some traits that I didn’t know before.”

Essence Walker agreed. “It meant a lot because it changed the way I see life and now I see people,” she said.

Pastor Debby Santiago is the Mission's leader.  She was once a drug dealer and bank robber.  But now she's a mentor backed by the city's Probation Department.

“They came one way, and they’ve just been changing into these people that I just want to hug all the time," Santiago said. "They are helping this community, most of them, I mean they are getting pleasure out of helping other people.”

Hurricane Sandy recovery projects in New York City involve some 450 teens on probation.  Many of them are on the road to a new life.

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