Mucking the mud out of a previously flooded dairy barn isn’t how one would expect most college students to want to spend their spring break.
But 13 WSU students from the Pullman campus chose to devote part or all of their spring break to help with cleanup from the devastating floods that hit southwestern Washington in December. The group drove by van across the state on Saturday to work in the southwest Lewis County communities of Pe Ell and Boistfort. The effort was organized by WSU’s Center for Civic Engagement and Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources.
When asked why he gave up his spring break to help with flood cleanup, broadcast major Samuel Becker replied, “I don’t know. I’ve been asking myself that a lot the last few days. These people need help and there aren’t a lot of people willing to come over and give up their time to do it. But I was, and so here I am.”
In addition to shoveling mud and debris out of barns, the students cleaned flood debris from fences, shoveled flood-deposited rocks and gravel out of fields so they can be plowed, and dug out irrigation pipes buried under two feet of mud.
Another student volunteer, Morgan Leap, said the experience has given her a more realistic perspective on the impacts of the disaster.
“You see stuff like this on the news and you see pictures of how people have lost their homes and you know in your head. But seeing it you feel it in your heart more,” she said. “You’re talking to families and hearing people’s stories. Actually seeing it makes it real.”
Generally the student volunteers were overwhelmed by the extent of damage they found and the years of cleanup facing local residents. Still they felt their few days of work were a valuable contribution.