Students Take Action to Coordinate Relief Efforts

Student activism can take many forms on college campuses, and recent natural disasters around the world have propelled many students to get involved. As Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico on Wednesday, September 20, a small group of University of Dayton (UD) students felt moved to do something, and jumped into action.

It all started with two students from the University of Pennsylvania who created a GoFundMe page to support Puerto Rico, specifically Unidos por Puerto Rico, a group headed by Puerto Rico's first lady, Beatriz Rosello, designed to organize relief efforts for the island. As word spread across social media, the efforts expanded to include other colleges and universities, and a goal was set to raise a $1,000.00 per campus. The page now has over 120 campuses across the country participating, and has already raised over $166,500.00.

In the spirit of Learn, Lead, Serve, our students decided they too wanted to take action, and stepped up to the challenge. With a few student coordinators, and 10-15 more volunteering, the group decided there could be several ways for the UD community to participate in the relief efforts. The group coordinated “takeovers” with a few local businesses; El Rancho Grande on Brown Street was one of them. Participation was active all day, with lines out the door and down the street at one point. They raised over $650.00 from that event alone.

Although the original idea was to raise money, the students decided they should also collect physical items as donations for the country as well. They quickly gathered boxes, coordinated with campus partners, and arranged drop off locations across campus in effort to collect items needed the most. There was a large drop off event on Saturday, September 30 in the middle of a campus parking lot, targeting the larger Dayton community. The group received over 150 cases of water, a variety of personal hygiene products, batteries, trash bags, baby supplies, among other things.

“Our original plan was to drive the items to Chicago to get them on a boat, but that would have taken over a week and a half,” shared Camila Lopez Gomez, one of the student volunteers who assisted with the efforts. “Through a connection I have here in the Dayton community, we were able to get in touch with someone at Ohio State University.” The group is now working to have the items flown to Puerto Rico for distribution.

When asked what motivated the group to take action, Camila shared, “we just had this heavy feeling about not being able to help. We were watching our island be destroyed from afar. We felt helpless, but we knew we had to do something about it.”

UD has approximately 100 students from Puerto Rico, many who did not hear from their families for days, some even weeks. The campus collection for donated items ended on Wednesday, October 4, but the GoFundMe page remains open for people who are interested in participating.

The university continues to offer support to anyone who has been impacted by the recent natural disasters. The Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Counseling Center, and Campus Ministry are offering a support group on Thursday, October 5 at 4:00pm in Alumni Hall 101. We send our support to the many students, staff and faculty impacted.
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