Just several weeks after Hurricane Dorian stormed through the Bahamas and part of the United States and Canada, Montclair State University is ready to help those affected by this devastation.
Hurricane Dorian made landfall on the Bahamas while the Montclair State community was approaching the start of the fall semester. The category five hurricane proved to be relentless when it left more than 70,000 people homeless and caused at least 43 fatalities, according to cnn.com.
On Sept. 21, Montclair State’s student services published an announcement, “Hurricane Dorian Bahamas Relief Donations,” which lists the eligible items for donation and where to drop the items off on campus. The relief drive is a collaborative effort organized by the Student Government Association (SGA), Caribbean Student Organization (CaribSo) and Office of International Engagement (IE).
Ashley Rosario, a sophomore communication and media major, lived in Humacao, Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria devastated the island two years ago.
“It takes me back [to Hurricane Maria] anytime I see news of destruction,” Rosario said. “To be honest, sometimes the hurricane feels like it happened yesterday.”
Rosario shared how people can help those affected.
“Send canned food, anything you can do. At the end of the day any little bit helps,” Rosario said.
Kayla Henry, a senior public health major, who is responsible for public relations for CaribSo, is also involved in organizing the donations.
“There are about a dozen students at Montclair State from the Bahamas, so we want to make sure we are supporting them while they are away from home, and that they feel safe and welcome,” Henry said.
In the days prior to the announcement of the relief drive, organization leaders and administrators were in conversation about helping those affected by Hurricane Dorian abroad and at Montclair State.
Jane Ann Williams, the associate provost from IE, shared that Montclair State is trying to help those affected.
“We are actively working on this and helping our Bahamian students on campus too,” Williams said.
As relief efforts were in the works, it was revealed in a Red Hawk News email to the class of 2020 that the senior trip would be a nine-day cruise to Bermuda, Half Moon Cay and Nassau, Bahamas.
The trip was also announced on the SGA’s Instagram account, sga_msu, where it was met with as much excitement as it did criticism. The post received 309 likes and 27 comments.
One student, under the Instagram username stormjanaee, commented on the SGA senior trip post, “Honestly, this [is] very insensitive.”
Another comment, posted under the Instagram username, ysabel.am, stated, “It’s understood that things have to be implemented with administration and stuff, but it doesn’t take a whole two weeks.”
SGA was prompted to respond immediately, through their Instagram account, sga_msu.
“We sincerely apologize if the announcement of Senior Trip came off insensitive.” The post mentioned. “This senior trip was planned way in advance over the summer.”
The SGA president, Jherel Saunders-Dittimus, discussed the response from Bahamian students at Montclair State.
“The SGA has been in dialogue with our Bahamian students who have expressed their encouragement to move ahead with the planned senior trip, in support of the Bahamian tourist economy,” Saunders-Dittimus said.
Asia Suggs, an undeclared sophomore, approved of Montclair State’s community efforts.
“There have been a variety of organizations that are supporting the tragedies in the Bahamas,” Suggs said.
She continued to praise CaribSo, in particular.
“A perfect example includes the organization CaribSo, who have been actively collecting supplies for those in need, in the Bahamas,” Suggs said. “They’re spreading awareness through their [social] media page as well as word of mouth.”
SGA, CaribSo, and IE will continue their efforts in retrieving donations from now until Oct. 23.