When Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in August 2017, many residents of the Lone Star State found themselves facing devastating losses and in need of legal support. Carla Krystyniak ’15, a recent Texas transplant, found herself in the heart of the disaster. Driven by a desire to help, Krystyniak put her legal training to use and applied for and became a Disaster Recovery Legal Corps Fellow with Equal Justice Works.
As a Fellow with Equal Justice Works, Krystyniak and others worked with well-established legal services nonprofits to provide assistance in areas dealing with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, landlord/tenant issues, contractor issues and other disaster-related legal problems. Krystyniak was the lead fellow in her group working directly with Lone Star Legal Aid, a nonprofit serving Texas and Arkansas, providing direct legal services to those in need.
Giving back to her community in this way follows the trend of Krystyniak’s career. At Villanova Law, she was honored with the Dorothy Day Award, which recognizes students devoted to pro bono work. She also points to her time as an intern in Villanova’s Interdisciplinary Mental and Physical Health Law Clinic, and with the Supervision to Aid Reentry program, as crucial in preparing her for her fellowship.
“I cannot tell you what it meant to walk out of a courthouse with a client who had spent years thinking legal rights were not for him, and to have him say, ‘Thank you. I have never won anything before.’ Legal aid work is about justice, it is about human dignity and it is about community. The clinics and partnership programs at Villanova Law are the best possible place to learn that,” Krystyiniak said.
While Hurricane Harvey’s immense destruction will be felt for years to come, individuals like Krystiniak are doing their part to provide relief to those left vulnerable and lead in recovery efforts.
“I had never experienced a natural disaster like this,” Krystyniak said. “It was a shocking experience, but a hopeful one as well. When the storm finally subsided, the message was definitely one of hope.”