The day after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, Sylvia Jimenez ’19 describes walking around campus scared and frustrated, unable to get in touch with people back home.
“I remember waking up on the first day after Hurricane Maria,” she said. “I didn’t have any contact with my family, and I went about my day knowing that most people didn’t know what was going on. I walked around campus that day, alone.”
Jimenez has since been able to contact her family members, who were unharmed.
But in the weeks following the disaster, she and other Puerto Rican students, along with members of the Latin American Student Organization (LASO) and other student groups, have begun organizing to make sure that the Bowdoin community is aware of the string of disasters in the Caribbean and Mexico.
Jimenez, Cindy Rivera ’18, and Louis Mendez ’19 recently tabled in Smith Union to raise both money and awareness. Other students, including Marianne Tissot ’20, are also helping the effort.
“Everyone’s busy right now. As a student, you’re in your bubble. But we’re trying to make it easy for people to reach out,” Jimenez said.
“We want people to know that there’s not enough medical care, that the lack of fuel is causing people to die in hospitals. People don’t have food or water. If you could put yourself in those people’s shoes, you would be more likely to help.”
Paola Maymi ’18, who has also been involved in organizing relief efforts, pulled up an article in which a doctor described the majority of deaths occurring in Puerto Rico as preventable. And while the doctor was referring to the sixteen deaths that were officially reported as of Tuesday night, a recent article by the Center for Investigative Journalism suggested that the actual death toll is more likely in the hundreds.The Bowdoin fundraising campaign takes several forms. The group is soliciting material donations for Puerto Rico, and have arranged for these to be transported to Northeastern University in Boston, where a group of Boston-area students is collecting donations from several schools. They have also begun a fundraising campaign, Bowdoin for PR and Mexico, and are working with local restaurants to set up donation events.
Both Taco the Town, a food truck that operates on the Brunswick town green, has also agreed to donate a portion of their proceeds from the weekend. “We raised over a thousand dollars from that event,” said Maymi. Frontier Restaurant in Brunswick has agreed to do the same this weekend.
The money raised will be donated to a variety of organizations. Half of it will go to Oxfam Mexico to support those affected by the Mexico City earthquake. The other half will go to Puerto Rico via three organizations: ConPRmetidos, Unidos por Puerto Rico, and a smaller organizationnot yet chosen.
“We want to work with a more local organization,” said Maymi. “We’re looking at one focused on agriculture, or possibly a local church that one of us is connected to.” Other trusted organizations are Friends of Puerto Rico, Hispanic Heritage Fund, and Fondos Unidos de PR.
“Our main question in choosing where to donate was: how much is getting to people who need it?” explained Jimenez.
But in the meantime, they say, anything helps. “This humanitarian crisis is still happening, and it will be happening for years and years and years,” said Jimenez.