Just before Christmas nine volunteers — including Japanese university students based in the U.S. — donned suits, masks and gloves to rip down the walls of a hurricane damaged home, recalling how the catastrophic quake-tsunami disaster stuck their homeland almost two years ago.

"I am Japanese but I couldn't help out in Japan, so I was thrilled to be able to do something here," said Madoka Aramachi, a sophomore at LaGuardia Community College in Queens, New York City.

After hearing of the severity of Superstorm Sandy, which roared up the East Coast on Oct. 29 — killing 43 people in the Big Apple, including a fellow student — she was moved to pitch in. Her first outing was to the Rockaways, a hard hit coastal community in Queens, joining around a dozen other students Nov. 10 in assisting the local community.