News Release Library
November 30, 2011

A St. Edward's University Student's Perspective: Helping the Bastrop Community through Service

As part of the St. Edward’s Spring Break Experience (SBE) service project, I was among dozens of fellow students who helped with debris clean-up of burned homes caused by the wildfires in Bastrop. When we showed up on the site, we saw perfectly intact homes next to homes that were completely destroyed. I was shocked. How could one house not be affected and the one next door be a pile of rubble?

I imagined what the families in the neighborhood were feeling — everything they had and known went up in flames. As my group worked on one particular house, the owner stood by watching us try to salvage what was left of her home. We all managed to pick up the garage door, then carry out the remains of her kitchen like the oven and dishwasher, things from her living room like her computer and window frames, and tiles from her bathroom.

She asked us to look for her jewelry box, so we fervently searched for it. She was so hopeful that we would find this treasured item. With great sorrow, I had to tell her that after hours of clearing out the rubble, we couldn’t find it. It was one of the saddest moments of that day.

I had the chance to talk with this woman a bit more and found out she lived in her house for 11 years. She had built a life in that home and it was suddenly swept away within a few minutes. It was difficult placing myself in her situation, and at the same time, knowing that many people have had this tragedy happen to them.

When people inhabit areas that are prone to high temperatures and extreme drought, wildfires are a frequent threat and can result in great loss. Yet, as nature would have it, these fires must occur in order for trees and shrubs to continue growing and renewing themselves. In times like these, I think nature’s lesson for us is that we must continue to grow and renew ourselves. We are reminded that nothing is permanent, and that with suffering can come unexpected blessings.

The homeowner we assisted mourns her lost home and neighborhood. Yet she was able to see a blessing -- with her insurance coverage, she’ll be able to rebuild a house in Austin and be closer to friends and family. As Aristotle once said, “Suffering becomes beautiful when anyone bears great calamities with cheerfulness, not through insensibility but through greatness of mind.”

--Monique Sandhu, sophomore global studies major with a communication minor

St. Edward’s University Bastrop Relief Response

The St. Edward’s University community continues to reach out to the Bastrop community through service. Students, faculty and staff members have contributed their time, talent or treasure to our neighbors in Bastrop. Since the wildfires began, the university has expressed its commitment to supporting the community in the long road to rebuilding.

To date, contributions have included:

  • $471.47 raised for rebuilding efforts
  • Almost 200 pounds of water bottles, granola bars, peanut butter and other non-perishables donated to Catholic Charities

Over the past two months, 250 St. Edward’s University students and staff members have given their time to help families with debris clean-up in the Bastrop community. Campus Ministry led three trips to Bastrop — the Home Support Team (Freshmen Escape Retreat), Service Break Experience Day of Service, and Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. Residence Life also had a “Resident Assistant In-Service” day in Bastrop.

Hilltop Views, the student newspaper, covered the Social Justice and Service Outreach Founders Day service project in Bastrop. Students and staff members at St. Edward’s worked to clean up debris from burned homes. Read more about their experiences and what you can do on campus to help Bastrop relief.