UMHS and the island of St. Kitts were spared from the worst of Hurricane Irma and Maria, but as we know, many of the neighboring islands, including Puerto Rico, Dominica, St. Martin and Barbuda, received catastrophic damage.
The UMHS Endeavour, with the help and guidance of Med4You nonprofit founder Ariana Hernández, reached out to UMHS students about all the great things folks on campus are doing to help out people affected by the devastation of these storms.
Below are the thoughts of our concerned students. From student fundraisers to a UMHS GoFundMe page for Puerto Rico to plans for clinics in Puerto Rico and volunteer work over the upcoming holiday break, our students have truly shown how much they care and that it is important to be proactive and resourceful in this time of need. We asked UMHS students Paola Mora, Ana Rodriguez, Giana Nieves and Leened Velázquez, all in the EBS (Extended Basic Sciences) program, to give us details and thoughts on how the UMHS student body, faculty and staff are helping make a difference for everyone affected by Hurricane Irma and Maria.
‘Helping Humanity Is Our Priority’
UMHS Endeavour: What are some things UMHS students have done to help victims of Irma and Maria in the Caribbean?
Paola Mora, EBS : “UMHS students have united forces to support all the victims of the past two hurricanes. When Hurricane Irma came to the Caribbean, it devastated our neighbors and future colleagues of St. Martin. UMHS students rapidly took action and we carried out a collection of articles of first necessity like food, clothes, shoes, hygiene products and medications to give them. We were in solidarity with them as it could have been us in the same situation. But that wasn’t all. When Hurricane Maria came to the Caribbean, it devastated our neighboring (and home of many UMHS students’ island) Puerto Rico. We took immediate action because emotionally it was a big impact for everyone. The first thing we did was to take a group picture of all the students and faculty in honor to bring hope and support for our family and friends of Puerto Rico, letting them know that they are not alone. And since then, we are doing everything we can like the first block party fundraiser, creating a GoFundMe fundraising account, doing sales at lunch in school, and just coordinating all the activities we can to raise money to help with food and medications for all the communities in need. It has been almost a month and UMHS students are still acting in different ways to help Puerto Rico.We are not giving up because as future health care professionals, helping humanity is our priority.
How to Help the People of Puerto Rico
UMHS Endeavour: What things still need to be done, especially in Puerto Rico?
Ana Rodriguez, EBS 3: Puerto Rico has suffered greatly from Hurricane Maria. Devastation was upon Puerto Rico, its inhabitants, and those in neighboring countries who have loved ones on the island. From what we can gather being on the outside of Puerto Rico, with little to no communication with family, friends, and the media suggestions proceeds with the following priorities: Hospital and Clinical care. Also, resources like water and food are needed for the hardest-hit and most remote places on the island. We are all aware of the situation with the roads, but we also know that a lot more can be done with the use of helicopters to reach the unreachable. The economy has definitely become an over-the-top issue to receive the help they deeply need and to restore power where it is most needed. Things that need to be done? Reach the unreachable, restore power so the lack of diesel stops becoming an issue, and move the empathy in people’s hearts to continue with the donations towards Puerto Rico. UMHS faculty and students have been more than supportive toward the current situation by giving the Puerto Ricans students the understanding, comfort, and creating a GoFundMe account for the immediate needs of the island. The students have a lot more to do due to the fact that it is never enough when it comes to help those in need. The citizens, now more than ever, have to become strong, supportive and caring for their neighbors in need; make way where there isn’t, gather resources how they can, and protect each other in the upcoming rains of the season.
UMHS Endeavour: Can current students and the general public still donate for relief causes to help people in hurricane affected areas?
Giana Nieves, EBS 3: The answer is yes. Many accounts have been made for hurricane-relief purposes. In our school, the Med4You nonprofit organization and the Student Government Association have worked together to create an account under GoFundMe and many students, faculty, staff and others have donated. Those who have access to social media may have already seen that many celebrities and even the First Lady of Puerto Rico have organized other accounts with the same purpose. Nevertheless, money isn’t the only thing we can donate; you can also give your time. Health care professionals, including psychologists, social workers, interpreters or even if you just want to volunteer to bring aid to communities that are far away from the metro area. We have organizations raising funds, but we also have groups within the same island that have taken up the responsibility to take food and water to these communities personally. Seen everything from the outside, in the social media, we feel we need to do better and give more. This is why we are planning and preparing ourselves to be volunteers in December, when we go back home.
UMHS Endeavour: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Leened Velázquez, EBS 5: Throughout the month of September 2017, the Caribbean islands were hit by two Category 5 hurricanes that left various islands severely devastated. UMHS students saw this as an opportunity to help these victims in our neighboring islands.
- To begin with, UMHS students first started writing posts with messages to send and share through Facebook when there was no communication with family members. This was an act of love, appreciation, care and support from us to them. Next, we started a GoFundMe page with the permission of President Ross where we would collect funds from everyone interested in aiding with even the smallest amount of money. With this money being collected, we would find the best way we could get the supplies, the food, the water and essentials to give to all those Puerto Ricans in need.
- As of this moment, Puerto Rico still needs help due to the lack of water, electricity and food even in most places. Puerto Rico needs people who are capable of being “hands-on” and distribute personally all these vital resources, like water and food, flashlights, candles, repellents, among other crucial items in order to survive in the conditions they are facing in these moments.
- Students, families, friends and professors have been donating money to the “Go-fund-me” account that UMHS students created. With that money, all the vital items will be bought and given to the regions with desperate necessities in Puerto Rico. People can keep donating to that account and to other accounts that are reliable.
- UMHS faculty and students keep doing everything in their power to help the situation in Puerto Rico. All the student clubs have managed to create fundraiser events to collect money to aid Puerto Rico. UMHS is very aware of the necessity that these people are going through and have been acting since day one. There will be students traveling to Puerto Rico throughout their semester in order to aid for a few days and then return to their studies. Moreover, an organization known as “Med4You” is planning to build various clinics in Puerto Rico in the month of December since it’s a common school break that all students have. With these movements we aim to provide everything that these people need in order to survive.
- When Hurricane Irma and Maria hit St. Kitts, we were lucky enough to not get so many catastrophes. The University gave us shelter with water and electricity where we could communicate with our families back home. They were always aware of the situation and gave us hourly updates of the hurricane status. We can proudly say that the University worked with excellence and responsibility in providing their students everything they needed in order to make it through the hurricanes. Classes were rescheduled quickly and everything came back to normal within days.
- With this being said, we are truly blessed that the hurricanes did not cause any harm to St. Kitts nor to the people, and that we are capable of being able to help our neighboring islands in every way we can.
To make a donation to the people of Puerto Rico affected by Hurricane Maria, please visit the UMHS GoFundMe page for Puerto Rico
Built in the tradition of the best U.S. universities, the University of Medicine and Health Sciences focuses on individualized student attention, small class sizes and recruiting high-quality faculty. For these reasons, UMHS is quickly becoming the school of choice among Caribbean medical schools.