The Christian Science Monitor

Spring break in Puerto Rico? After María, that means 'rebuild,' not 'relax'

Harvard law student Kevin Ratana Patumwat helps hurricane victims sort legal documents at a FEMA help center on March 14, 2018 in Barranquitas, Puerto Rico. Six months after hurricane Maria hit, students spent their spring break helping victims navigate the FEMA system. Source: Alfredo Sosa/Staff

Mallory Gibson, a music-business major at the University of Northern Colorado (UNC), has spent her junior-year spring break surrounded by sand, surf, and palm trees. But her experience has been pretty far from typical. 

“This is exactly what I wanted to do,” says Ms. Gibson, who moments earlier put down a nearly two-foot-long machete that she was using to whack apart a fallen palm tree. She’s covered in a thin film of dirt and, like everyone else here, drips sweat under the midday sun. Just a few hundred yards away the Caribbean laps the sandy shore of the Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve, but she won’t dip her toes in the water until her seven-hour work day wraps.

“We’re tackling a small drop in the large ocean of things that need to be done” to help Puerto Rico get back on its feet, she says. 

Gibson is the

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