Exchange students from Puerto Rico help provide aid to family affected by devastating hurricane at UAS
By MARIA ROMFOE
Staff Writer, UAS Whalesong
With Alaska located nearly 5,000 miles away from this catastrophic event, it has been difficult to avoid feeling dismay and destress for friends, family, and fellow Americans living in Puerto Rico.
These feelings were especially strong for Puerto Rican students here at UAS including exchange students Nikyshaliz Velázquez, Gabriela Hernandez, and Eva Collazo.
On Wednesday, September 20, Hurricane Maria—a category four hurricane with 150 mph winds–made direct landfall on Puerto Rico.
Weeks later, one fifth of Puerto Rican households remain without running water and two thirds of residents still lack electricity according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Due to the lack of electricity and other amenities, it was, and still is, difficult to communicate with victims of the hurricane as Hernandez explains.
“I didn’t know anything about my family and friends and it was really frustrating… they didn’t have electricity during almost three weeks,” said Hernandez.
Once communication was made possible, Velázquez received information about the destruction her family experienced.
“During the hurricane, my family had a lot of damage. The cars were destroyed, due to the fact that the garage of my house collapsed. All around my house disappeared and there was a lot of damage. The inside of the house was flooded and they had to leave some places. Currently, my family does not have water service, nor the light. They are looking for aid, because it is difficult to get food in this situation,” said Velázquez.
The three decided to take action all the way in Alaska to help raise money and collect donations to assist with hurricane relief in Puerto Rico.
“To help Puerto Rico, Niky, Eva and I, with the help of Marsha (Squires) and Dr. Navarro, planned a community bake sale. Many people helped by bringing homemade cookies and cupcakes. Others bought food and gave donations to us. With the help of the UAS community we could reach up to $700 and fill up five suitcases,” said Hernandez.
Hernandez explained that the Juneau community can continue to help hurricane victims in multiple ways.
“With just showing support you are already helping our island. However, the situation back home is really critical. Supermarkets are getting out of supplies and the ones that are supposed to come and be disbursed around the island are not getting where they need to. We can help from Alaska by sending boxes with supplies, such as medicine, canned food, water, batteries, etc.”
Help is still crucially needed, and any amount of time, money, and other forms of support will make a difference for the cause.
Some reputable charities to donate to include The Life You Can Save, GiveWell, Unicef, Foundation for Puerto Rico, The Boys & Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico, Hispanic Federation, Salvation Army, United Way, Catholic Charities and United for Puerto Rico: Together Changing Paths.