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Student heads on a mission to help the Bahamas

by Briana DeTuro

On Saturday, Aug. 24, category five Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas, destroying homes and flooding the streets. The Bahamas are still continuing to suffer from the aftermath of this hurricane.

On Tuesday, Jan. 21, Amanda Cabrera, University of Tampa senior international business and management student and her sister, Tiffany Mercado, are joining the organization All hearts and hands on a mission trip to the Bahamas to the parts primarily hit by Hurricane Dorian. 

Approximately 30 volunteers, including Cabrera and Mercado, will be rebuilding schools, houses and anything else needed during a two-week time period.  

Because Abaco Island is still in shambles, commercial flights have not been cleared to fly into the island. Cabrera and Mercado are raising money for this mission trip, in order to fly through a private charter from Nassau to Abaco, as well as some other expenses needed.

Cabrera has traveled many times before and has even traveled to the Bahamas. Her normal living accommodations when traveling are either family or friends’ houses, resorts or cruises. She is being pushed out of her comfort zone since the living accommodations in the Bahamas will be very different than her other experiences. Cabrera will be living in a hostel-like house with strangers and sleeping on a cot.

“Everything I am doing right now is super out of my comfort zone,” says Cabrera. “Which I think is exciting me the most. I love challenges, and this whole trip is super different for me.”

Although Cabrera travels a lot for work and luxury, this will be the first time Cabrera is traveling on a mission trip and with the sole purpose to serve. Both Cabrera and Mercado are excited about this opportunity.

“What I am most excited about is being able to give back,” says Mercado. “By the grace of God, I have been able to live a very blessed and fortunate life and I’m just so happy that I am able to help those that need it the most.”

All Hands and Hearts Smart response is an organization “that addresses the immediate and long-term needs of communities impacted by natural disasters.”  

Through their volunteers and communication with local leaders within the community, they are able to enable a direct impact helping to build safer, more resilient schools, homes, and infrastructure.

After applying for a position online, Cabrera and Mercado awaited an email. After a few days, they were told they were accepted into the program. Now while raising funds, they are needing to get their tetanus shot and their emergency contacts in order as well as their full medical history records.

“I was interested in this organization primarily because it was one of the few that was actually accepting volunteers and not just monetary donations,” said Mercado. “I was looking to work with my hands, not my wallet which is what this group is going to allow me the opportunity to do.”

Through all this excitement and determination to make a difference, Cabrera has recognized some struggles she anticipates. Cabrera has been to the Bahamas before but only to the more tourist and richer sides, which is the opposite of where she will be going too during this trip. During this trip, they will be with the locals and experiencing what it’s like to live in the Bahamas after the hurricane.

She is also nervous since there are a lot of unknown variables. Volunteers don’t have a set schedule, since every day will be new, and work will need to be done depending on what is needed, which stresses Cabrera’s very meticulous and detailed oriented characteristics.  

“I am nervous about the culture shock also, which I think is my biggest fear,” says Cabrera. “Other than that, I just hope to stay well and not get sick or hurt.”

“Me and my sister are the clumsiest people ever,” says Cabrera. “I’m also nervous since I got to make sure we don’t nail our hands to a board or anything like that.”

Cabrera feels that mission trip organizations like these need more recognition in order to get more volunteers to help.  The idea that the words “mission trip” is linked to a church group in actually not always true. All Hands and Hearts Smart response is not linked to any church organization.

“I think people fail to realize that these trips are open to anyone,” says Carera. “ These associations are always looking for volunteers, and you don’t have to have any specific certifications or backgrounds. You just have to be willing to serve wholeheartedly.”

Cabrera says that she’s excited to see the direct impact that she, her sister and the organization will have. She is excited to be able to meet people, to experience a new way of traveling, but primarily to help the community. 

Briana DeTuro can be reached at briana.deturo@theminaretonline.com

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