BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR)– Students and teachers from Virginia Tech’s “Societal Health” class are lending a hand to Letcher County, Kentucky residents whose homes and lives were destroyed by the deadly flooding about a month ago.

The flooding killed at least 38 people, leaving many lives shattered.

The community service project is supposed to teach the students about mutual aid projects, and understanding health on a larger scale.

“For me now my eyes have been opened to the kind of like, what mutual aid projects are,” said Mythri Challuri, a student in Societal Health.

Challuri says she feels lucky that she gets to go on a trip like this to get a broader understanding of what is it to help another group that experienced a natural disaster.

Another student, Jesus Alemand says the trip is a little more personal for him, especially since mutual aid projects are not foreign to him.

“This is not the first time I’ve done something like this. I’ve done this in Guatemala and Honduras, and as a Honduran myself, I know what it feels like to be left behind,” said Alemand.

Both students in the class say it’s important to help those in need. So, when you see an opportunity like this you take it.

However, professors of the course — Emily Satterwhite and Rebecca Hester — describe the trip further saying it’s more than just giving back.

“A large focus on what we do in this class is really trying to connect students to broader ideas of health, other than what happens in the clinic. For us, this is health work. This is about going out there through collective action contributing to human flourishing and helping people not only survive but thrive,” said Hester.

Satterwhite explains she got the idea after a friend — who lived in the hardest hit area — reached out to her asking if she was okay after the storm. Satterwhite explained to her friend that the Virginia Tech area did not get hit as hard.

She told her friend that she will bring students to Eastern County to help out.

Both Lester and Satterwhite say Virginia Tech College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, the Center for Refugee Migrant and Displacement studies, and others supported them along the way to make this trip possible.

“Virginia Tech is able to support the students in their educational trip with transportation, protective care for the work they are going to be doing, and food,” said Satterwhite.

Hester says the flooding event is an example of “mass displacement” in comparison to other issues that are going on in the world globally.

“This isn’t just about climate change. It is about the human and animal consequences of climate change on the ground,” said Hester.

Satterwhite says students will focus on mucking out houses, preparing food, organizing supplies for the community, and assisting with an Appalachian Roots Benefit Concert for flood relief.

She adds that this is a human cause disaster because of the history of surface mining in Eastern Kentucky and the fossil-fueled climate change.

The organizer says students need to understand how people got into the place where suffering is happening and address it head-on.

Satterwhite and Hester add that one of the biggest losses in Eastern Kentucky is the libraries. They brought at least 20 boxes of children’s books to give back to the community.

On top of that, they also brought quilts made by Folk Cultures and Appalachia’s class, to bring comfort and joy to those in need.

All gifts made by Sep 18 to the Appalachian Studies fund at Virginia Tech will go to eastern Kentucky flood relief.