In less than a month’s time, three major hurricanes swept through the Caribbean and left billions of dollars in destruction and a paralyzing toll that may take many years to pull through. The grave situation in the Caribbean is displayed in the news headlines: bodies stacked atop each other in mass burials, people living on rooftops, and thousands of shacks floating on a river of muddy, bacterial infested water.
The destruction caused by Hurricanes Frances, Jeanne and Ivan in the U.S. alone ranges from $15 to $20 billion; in the Caribbean, damages could total $50 billion. For islands with sparse funds, scarce resources, and economies supported by tourism, the recovery period may continue for decades. The biggest need for workers and aid is in Haiti, where over 2,700 people died as a result of floods and mudslides, and over 300,000 were left homeless.
“They need money. It’s as simple as that,” said Saran Stewart, president of Caribbean Student Association. “We need people to come out and help.”
To date, $13.3 million in assistance has been gathered to help the Caribbean, a relatively small amount considering the billions in damages across the Caribbean. UM student organizations have initiated relief efforts to aid the homeless and hungry in the Caribbean. Many of the basic necessities, like clothes, food and water are of great demand and scarce supply.
“The Caribbean have been dealt a disastrous blow,” Sherley Simon, junior, said. “We recognize the blessing we have here in the U.S. and are doing everything we can to ensure that the rebuilding process is an easier one.”
Planet Kreyol, the Caribbean Student Association, the Bahamian Student Association, the Organization of Jamaican Unity, and the Virgin Island Student Association, among others, under the leadership of the Council Of International Students and Organizations [COISO], have set up programs and events to petition donations.
“We are so fortunate because we live in Florida and because we can help those at home,” said Crystal Scott, president of the Bahamian Student Association. “We have to take advantage and help those in the Caribbean. It doesn’t matter how small because we need to remember that they have lost everything and every little bit helps.”
Drop off sites for hurricane relief supplies are currently located throughout campus, and they include residential colleges, the UC, and Wellness Center. On Oct. 20, there will be a special Island Relief Cultural Showcase on the UC Patio; all donations will go to the Caribbean Islands to support hurricane relief efforts.
“Unfortunately, the devastation in Haiti, Grenada, and the Caribbean is quickly becoming yesterday’s news and relief efforts may be side swept by more recent and ‘news-worthy’ events, ” Michaelle Pierrette, junior, said. “It’s important that we act now.”
For more information about ongoing hurricane relief efforts, please visit the COISO office, UC 213, or call 305-284-3548. Contact Chairperson of the Planet Kreyol Haitian Relief Fund, Jennifer Pierre-Louis at 954-822-6993 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Myriam Clerge can be contacted at email@example.com.