Students From Hurricane-Effected Areas Talk About Relief


University of New Haven students spoke about their dissatisfaction with response and recovery efforts thus far in regards to the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in a panel discussion held early last week.

The panel’s goal was to shed light on the harrowing situation still unfolding and to raise money and supplies to help with hurricane relief. Sponsored by the Office of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Office of the Vice President of Students Affairs, and the political science program, the panel featured students representing Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

The panel heard accounts from Kayra Clouden, a senior communications major from St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Jason Torres, a cellular and molecular biology graduate from the university speaking on behalf of Puerto Rico.

The panel was moderated by Dr. Chris Haynes, coordinator of political science and director of the political science speaker series. Additionally, a letter read by Dr. Haynes told the accounts of Ana Colon, a student at the university from Puerto Rico, who could not attend the panel.

The discussion was focused largely on testimonies given by Clouden and Torres speaking about how these locations are much more to them than just beautiful islands. They are their homes, their communities, and their families who are in need of help right now.

Clouden’s accounts detailed the horrific aftermath of Hurricane Maria as she explained the current feelings of many from the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“A lot of Virgin Islanders today feel forgotten, many people feel as if we aren’t getting enough exposure or media coverage as we should be for help, it feels as if we are literally begging for help at this point and that is not okay,” she said.

Torres spoke about the call for help him and his family felt after having no communication with their loved ones in Puerto Rico, fearing the unknown. A week after the storm hit, Torres and a few of his family members flew out to Puerto Rico to help in any way that they could.

“We couldn’t wait, we had to leave,” said Torres.

Both explained the frustrations they had, and still have, regarding accessibility to supplies and the actions, or lack thereof, taken to help those who are in need of it most.

For Clouden it is a matter of gathering supplies and getting those supplies to the islands.

“As far as distribution, everyone is willing to distribute, the fire departments, the governors, the senators,” said Clouden. “It’s just getting these things to them from Connecticut.”

For Torres the frustration lied in the fact that “the supplies were there, but they’re just not getting to the people.”

These are fellow American citizens, they both emphasized, and now it is our turn to help them in any way we can.

“To hear people only want to indulge in our islands and take the beaches and their vacation time and stuff like that,” Clouden said. “But when it’s time to help and when it’s time to really do something, no one was there.”

There are a variety of outlets for those students and faculty looking to help.

On behalf of the City of West Haven, Mayor Ed O’Brien has partnered with the Latino Haven Committee, the UNH Mayor Advisories Commission, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Rotary Club in West Haven for their current relief programs.

They are focusing primarily on monetary donations which will be donated to UNICEF, who then can get the items that are needed. Those who wish to donate can visit West Haven’s GoFundMe page.There are also collection stations at every fire department throughout the city and at city hall which will be collecting toiletries, diapers, and cleaning supplies. The drive is going on now and will end Oct. 13.

The Latin American Student Association on campus is also pushing hurricane relief efforts. They are collection both monetary and supply donations at their drop off station in the Myatt Center of Diversity and Inclusion until Oct. 15.

Clouden, as a resident assistant and on behalf of Residential Life, is implementing donation boxes in all residence halls on campus where residents can donate supplies such as canned food, baby formula, and clothes. All supplies will be shipped to the Virgin Islands.

Additionally, the Undergraduate Student Government Association is collecting monetary donations to aid in relief from all hurricanes and natural disasters. Cash can be brought to the Bartels Building Managers adjacent to Jazzman’s Café. Charger cash will also be accepted and can be donated in CSELO, located in Bartels Hall on the third floor.