Twenty teens from New Jersey are currently building temporary homes and repairing roofs in storm-damaged Puerto Rico with the NJ NCSY’s Fred and Rose Distenfeld Chesed Mission.

NCSY is an Orthodox Jewish youth group under the auspices of the Orthodox Union.

The 2018 Distenfeld Chesed Missions support rebuilding efforts in Houston; New Orleans; Nashville, Tenn.; Charleston, S.C.; and Puerto Rico. The groups partner with Jewish day schools for the working trips, including the Jewish Education Center (Elizabeth, N.J.), Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls (Teaneck, N.J.), the Frisch School (Paramus, N.J.) and the Bergen County High School of Jewish Studies (Ridgewood, N.J.). Other participants come from public schools across the state.

“This trip taught me that even a little smile can change a person’s day,” said Alex, a volunteer. “I hope our work changes the lives of many people for years to come.”

NJ NCSY has earned accolades for running disaster-relief missions throughout the country for the past 11 years. The organization has sent teen groups to Texas, Louisiana, Minnesota, New York, Georgia and Puerto Rico. While volunteering, they work hands-on with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, South East Recovery, Hike for Katrina, Nechama and Green Light, working to construct and repair buildings and homes to improve the lives of their inhabitants.

The program teaches leadership training to the teens, who take their experiences back home with the expectation that they become motivated to participate in additional social-justice programs.