Teen Blog

Teen Blog

Who Makes a Difference?

Hurricane Recovery in Houston

By Emma Keith, Newburyport HS, 2021

My incredible experience with JTI started with a great take off, literally, at 1:23 pm at Boston Logan International Airport. At the very beginning of the trip, I was introduced to eight fellow teens who, like me, were egear to make a difference. My flight from Boston to Houston was very comfortable, thanks to our early boarders who were able to board prior to the rest of the passengers and secure seats for us within the first few rows! At around 5:25 we all stepped off the plane in the exquisite city of Houston, better known as 627 square miles of sauna. Although Texas was beyond muggy for the entire duration of our trip, the presence and energy within the group (and the air conditioning in the van) made the heat tolerable.

The group as a whole took part in an abundance of exciting activities starting out the first night with bowling. On other nights we gamed in an arcade, played laser tag, and checked out downtown Houston (definitely a must-see). We rode the Ferris wheel at sunset, ate some great Tex-Mex and BBQ food, and attended a Houston Astros game. On Friday, we enjoyed a delicious Mediterranean Shabbat dinner in a Jewish Bollywood themed art gallery in the largest temple I have ever seen (thanks Congregation Beth Israel for welcoming us!). The hospitality the rabbi and the entire congregation showed made us feel very welcomed. This whole experience was nothing short of astounding.


Regardless of all the fun and evening activities, the highlight of the trip was meeting the person whose house we were working on: Ms. Cynthia. Working on her house through was tough. After watching a minute and a half video called, “How to Tile- For Beginners,” I spent countless hours tiling the sweltering hot bathroom that reached temperatures above one hundred degrees. I also spent a lot of time painting. Everyday, I left the worksite with paint in my hair, stained onto my clothing, and splotched on skin. Each day I became more and more exhausted, yet we all continued to work twice as hard as the previous day for Cynthia. She stopped by to meet us, talk about how much our services meant to her, and tell us a bit about her life. Just from a quick visit, I could see that Cynthia radiated positivity, thankfulness, and thoughtfulness towards others. She is the epitome of goodness in the world, and her presence made everyone strive to work harder. Personally, after meeting her I was very inspired and I want to try to possess her attitude, strength, and mentality, and carry it with me throughout my life. No words I could possibly write about her would do her any justice. All I have to say is, there are some people you’ll remember for the rest of your life, and I can easily say that Ms. Cynthia is one of them.