Friday February 2, 2018

Lending a Hand Back Home

University of Dayton senior Alondra Roman had difficulty reaching her family in Puerto Rico after the disaster of Hurricane Maria in September. She heard they survived the storm, but was unable to communicate with them until they could reach a phone. In the weeks that followed, Roman and other students from Puerto Rico organized a campus effort for students, faculty and staff to donate supplies to Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief.

Roman’s family lives in one of the first neighborhoods to regain power, but was without electricity for more than 50 days. They were not as hard hit as other residents in Puerto Rico, many of whom are still without power today.

“It was really hard for me because I love Puerto Rico,” said Roman, a sociology major with a minor in social work. “It was heartbreaking looking at all the photos and videos posted on social media.”

With help from the University Office of Multicultural Affairs, Roman and other Puerto Rican students organized a donation day on Oct. 1. Dozens of campus volunteers helped organize and pack supplies, including cases of water, feminine products, canned goods, diapers and other necessities. With the combined efforts of the Dayton community, more than 12 pallets of donations were collected and shipped to Puerto Rico.

Roman was instrumental in the authorization for the use of residence halls as a place to drop items. She also assisted in logistics planning of how to get the supplies to the island.

“The morning of the event we all had faith in our UD and Dayton community but we were not expecting the number of donations and support we received that day,” said Paola Ortiz, a graduate assistant in the Office of Multicultural Affairs. “We were impressed by how many departments helped donate and spread the word and how many people showed up, especially alumni and Daytonians.”

In addition, two off-campus fundraising events at El Rancho Grande and Timothy’s on Brown Street raised more than $2,000. Those funds were donated to United For Puerto Rico, an organization created by the first lady of Puerto Rico, Beatriz Rosselló, after Hurricane Irma hit the island earlier in September.

“University of Dayton is truly a community,” Roman said. “It was awesome to see that when we were in need people were there. Even weeks after it happened, I received texts from friends and emails from professors checking in and letting me know they were there for me if I needed help. It was great to see everyone united and that they wanted to support us.”

Roman returned to Puerto Rico for Christmas break. She and her family volunteered with the relief efforts there by collecting donations to bring to areas still recovering from the storm. While at home, Roman also surveyed what the island still needs and what students can do to further help.

Campus Ministry is investigating the possibility of a BreakOut trip for students.

“I’m really excited about it,” Roman said. “I am a tree lover and I know a lot of trees were destroyed. So, I would love to center the BreakOut around the environment.”

The University has about 100 Puerto Rican students, the majority of whom come from Colegio San José, a Marianist high school. Campus Ministry hopes to focus the BreakOut trip in the school’s area, although the trip’s status is uncertain.

“We are hopeful for a possible BreakOut to Puerto Rico, and our campus ministry intern, Diego Buxeda, is working closely on a possibility of this with a Colegio staff member,” said Mary Niebler, Coordinator of Cross-Cultural Immersions BreakOuts and Immersions.

After she graduates in December 2018, Roman plans to attend graduate school in the United States. Last summer, she stayed in Dayton and worked at Daybreak, a youth homeless shelter.

“I wanted to see if I really wanted to work with youth and I definitely do. It was a great experience,” Roman said. “We helped the youth in the housing program gain life skills, such as getting back to school, jobs, doing interviews and learning how to cook. It was awesome.”

Roman first heard about the University of Dayton from her godfather who lives in the Dayton area. Her interest in social work comes from her love of helping others, which is evident in her hard work and dedication to the hurricane relief effort.

“I would say Alondra gave her 100 percent all the time in order to make this happen,” Ortiz said.

- Lauren Reid ‘18

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