Hurricane Recovery Project

Today kicked off the ¡Extran Hero! Hurricane Recovery Project, a creative fundraising initiative to support the victims and families affected by Hurricane Sandy.  
A few weeks ago, I was walking with Hannah through Tapapiés (a couple of weeks in which bars in the Lavapiés neighborhood offer a signature tapa for one euro each) when we came across Espacio Cultural La Victoria.  The owner, Rafa Clemente, greeted us right away and gave us a tour of the place.  Rafa is a painter who had just opened this bar in Madrid, which was inspired by the original La Victoria opened in 1914 but closed for the last 50 years.  He told us we would be always welcome to participate in workshops offered at La Victoria or exhibit artwork on the walls.
Then, last week, Hurricane Sandy hit New York City.  Though I was receiving constant news about what was happening in the city, it wasn’t until after the storm came and went that I realized the scope of the damage, the devastation caused, and all of the lives affected.  Half of the people whose lives were lost were from Staten Island, and there were entire homes and businesses that were completely destroyed.  My friends and family were volunteering on Staten Island, and I felt incapable of helping them from abroad.  I thought about donating to an organization, but it didn’t feel like enough. 
I was sharing these feelings of frustration to Val, when we met up one evening. I voiced a desire to organize an event that would give Americans and others abroad, as well as Spaniards, a platform in which to respond and contribute to the hurricane relief.  She was totally on board with the idea, so we got to work on a proposal for this event.  
When brainstorming where to host the event, Hannah reminded me that La Victoria would be a great place to start, since the owner, Rafa, has exhibited in New York City and was so welcoming towards us.  I brought the proposal to Rafa and when we sat down to talk about it, he was completely supportive and on board with the idea.  He said in addition to the drawing responses, we could exhibit photos of the hurricane’s impact around the space for one week.
From there, we got to work on printing photos that we gathered from people who volunteered on the island (a large number from David Di Lillo, and a handful from Nolwen Cosmao and my mom, Paulette Young).  We also put together a banner for the event, and went shopping for markers and other materials.  We found paper cut into the shape of houses, which served as a symbol for those who have lost their houses in Hurricane Sandy.
I am continually humbled and inspired by the way people have come together for the hurricane response and recovery back home, and today in Madrid was no different.  We gathered 17 people to share their artwork and make donations to the cause, the proceeds for which will go to the Tunnel for Towers Foundation, an organization that Staten Island Borough President Guy Molinaro recommended donations go towards for widespread hurricane relief.
On Tuesday we will screen a film at La Victoria, “Healing a Wounded Borough: Hurricane Sandy and Staten Island, New York,” by David Di Lillo.  The photos and visual responses will remain displayed in La Victoria over the next six days, and the donation bin and blank house templates will be placed along the bar for people to continue to donate and draw messages of support throughout the week.  Then, next Sunday, November 18th, we will have our culminating event, in which we receive the final messages and count up the donations raised.
Thank you to all who have supported the ¡Extran Hero! Hurricane Recovery Project today and those who will contribute to the cause in the week to come!
Onto some of the photos:
Rafa, my proud, Spanish roommate, Amy, who just arrived in Madrid this weekend, and Mary, fellow Macaulay graduate, working on their Hurricane Sandy responses.
The decorated space.  We will be selling the photos on display, the proceeds of which will go to hurricane relief.
We managed to find a bank with New York City iconography on it!  We asked donors to leave their name, e-mail, and donation amount so we can acknowledge their contributions later.
The blank houses onto which supporters can write hopeful messages, reflections, and responses.  We were lucky to find these houses in Tiger, a thrifty crafts store!
Fellow IES Clara Campoamor teacher Rosa Portela was kind enough to come to the event, along with my fellow teaching assistant Kayla! 
A successful group shot of everyone giving a thumbs up.  Except for the fact that, as Brock pointed out, we are blocking out the last two words, leaving just, ¡Extran Hero! Hurricane”!

Me and my extraordinary co-coordinator, Val.  This event wouldn’t have happened without all of her support!

Another person to whom we owe a great deal, the generous and industrious Rafael Clemente.  We wish him the very best in the first few months of this new cultural space, and plan on being loyal visitors!

And now, all of the responses:

Rafael García Marín (Madrid, Spain)
Mary Williams (Ossining, New York, USA)

Amy Monroe (Ossining, New York, USA)
Aaron Jibb (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
Ryan Rockmore (New York, New York, USA)
Val Kaskovich (Wheaton, Illinois, USA)
Cristina Rodríguez (Madrid, Spain)
Hannah Connor (Washington, DC, USA)
Kayla Hendrickson (Fresno, California, USA)
Amber Rogers (Hershey, Pennsylvania, USA)
Napala Pratini (Berkeley, California, USA)
Rafael Clemente (Madrid, Spain)
Brock Schardin (Marlon, South Dakota, USA)
Mike Young (Staten Island, New York, USA)
Toni Cano (Barcelona, Spain)
Jeana Cordeiro (Washingtonville, New York, USA)
Tony Martin (Indiana, USA)