Volunteer Lydia Tembo

Youth Coordinator, Presbytery of New York City

Interview conducted by Christian Huisman

PHIA Volunteer Lydia Tembo (at far left)

PHIA Volunteer Lydia Tembo (at far left)

Q.  Tell me a little bit about yourself.
A.  My name is Lydia Tembo, and I am originally from Lusaka, Zambia. I grew up in Queens, NY, and I am the Youth Coordinator for the Presbytery of New York City. I am also an Elder and Youth Worker/Facilitator at First Presbyterian Church in Forest Hills.

Q.  Where were you when Superstorm Sandy hit?
A.  I was living in Bushwick. I was home in my apartment, and honestly I didn’t think much of the storm at the time. I thought it was being over–dramatized just from what I was seeing from my window. Because I didn’t have a TV and the Internet wasn’t really being reliable while the storm was happening, I just had to go with what I could see. Obviously I was very wrong.

Q. What called you to be a part of the rebuild effort?
A.  The Rockaways are an ignored area. For the most part it is a forgotten place, except for the beach. So since Rockaway is a part of Queens, and I am a Queens native, I could only imagine how someone would feel going through what they were going through. I think we are called as Christians to be a healing presence in the midst of chaos. Dignity is not something you can normally see, but when you’re missing a roof or your house is flooded, it’s sort of out there in the open for everyone.

Q.  What benefits have you found in volunteering?
A.  I would say gaining a new story to share, and not just a story, but also a testament. Even though it isn’t my story, it is now one that I get to carry with me. You learn compassion by going out to these homes that have been destroyed and learning the stories from the homeowner. You also just get to be a symbol of hope. I mean it’s in the name Presbyterian Hope in Action. By actually going out and volunteering, you are providing hope to a community that has been through so much pain.

Q. What would you say to someone who has yet to volunteer in the Sandy rebuild process?
A.  That they should just do it. It’s an eye opening experience and the Rockaways need you. You also just need to do it for yourself and get out of your comfort zone. You don’t need to be a carpenter or plumber or painter; you just need to be yourself, and you will be put to use. Your presence will bring relief, whether you can see it or not, and it will then be a part of the Rockaways story.

Q.  Any other thoughts?
A.  As a Christian, I believe that we are meant to help our brothers and sisters and learn how to be a better neighbor. So I just challenge you to learn how to be a neighbor to the Rockaways.

Click HERE to view photos of the Advent Youth Volunteer day.