MRC Collects Donations for Disaster Relief
Issue   |   Tue, 10/03/2017 - 22:03
A student hands a donation to representatives of the Multicultural Resource Center at the fundraising event for communities affected by recent natural disasters.
Photo courtesy of Takudzwa Tapfuma ’17
People donated to the Multicultural Resource Center’s fundraiser from Sept. 21 to Sept. 28 for communities in the U.S. and Mexico affected by recent disasters including three hurricanes and an earthquake.

The Multicultural Resource Center (MRC) organized a fundraiser from Sept. 21 to Sept. 28 in Keefe Campus Center to collect donations for communities affected by the recent environmental disasters in Puerto Rico, Texas and Mexico.

Campus police dispatcher Lourdes Marie Torres, who identifies as Puerto Rican, first came up with the idea for the fundraiser. The original plan was to put together donation boxes and have them sent to those impacted by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

Bulaong Ramiz-Hall, director of the MRC, said in an email interview that she “worked to expand this [idea] to have visible tabling to not only collect physical donations but also monetary donations to people impacted by Hurricane Maria, Irma, Harvey and the earthquake in Mexico.”

Over the last few weeks, the three hurricanes hit the Caribbean and southern United States, affecting Puerto Rico, Florida and Texas most severely.

According to government officials, at least 70 people died as a result of Hurricane Harvey, 25 from Hurricane Irma and 16 from Hurricane Maria.

Hurricane Maria left nearly all 3.4 million people in Puerto Rico without power and most without water, according to fact-checking site Snopes. Roads have been completely washed away or blocked by debris, and a dam located near the Guajataca River is on the verge of collapsing.

Texas has been similarly affected by heavy flooding, and thousands have been forced to evacuate their homes.

The earthquake in Mexico killed at least 216 people, leaving people without power and their homes in debris. All public and private schools have been shut down in Mexico City.

“We decided to table on a Thursday and had our first event that Friday,” Ramiz-Hall said.

The MRC’s student staff and Ramiz-Hall had previously purchased pins and and other items for Latinx Heritage Month. “We used those to encourage minimum donations and quickly started advertising via social media and our listserv,” Ramiz-Hall added.

The fundraising event had an immediate impact among the student community. “In our first day of fundraising we had a student hand us a $100 bill and thank us for doing this,” Ramiz-Hall said. The student had family in Puerto Rico who had been directly affected by Hurricane Maria, she said.

Through the fundraiser, “I have been [able] to connect with so many other Puerto Ricans on campus that I did not know were here, and together we have been finding ways to support each other, to reassure one another, and to maintain hope,” Ramiz-Hall added.

Ramiz-Hall said she hopes that the fundraiser will remind Amherst community that it is part of a larger global community.
Events that occur around the world may seem distant, she said, but they can actually impact many members of the college community.

“We have the wonderful opportunity to access resources and I hope we continue to find ways to share those with people outside of Amherst who need it most,” Ramiz-Hall said.

“If that’s not lighting the world, I don’t know what is,” she added.

In an online interview, Ann Guo ’20, who donated to the fundraiser, said the effort “resonated with me, that people here had personal ties with Puerto Rico, and because of that, it brought me a new perspective away from the mass-media perpetuation of U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico as the ‘other’ and as an unrelated entity to our lived realities.”

“[The fundraiser] allowed students to realize the salience of the disaster in the lives of actual humans who existed and were in need in the world, in this moment, right now,” she said.