More than two months have passed since Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, and life on the island remains a struggle. While the story has largely faded from the public consciousness, a group at Rockland Community College is doggedly working to help bring relief to some of those impacted by the devastating storm.
“Many people are not all that aware of the situation in Puerto Rico today,” said Inez Rivera, RCC faculty counselor. “There are still parts of the island that have received very little aid. Some haven’t received anything.”
“I feel like Puerto Rico’s been taken back to the Dark Ages,” said Ronnie Rolls, an RCC Nursing student who has aunts, an uncle and many cousins who live on the island. “It’s terrible what they’re enduring.”
The RCC Puerto Rico Task Force, led by Rivera, is preparing to send a shipment of supplies to the island in mid-December to help those still in need. The group has been collecting non-perishable food and other supplies at drop-off points around the College campus. The plan is to send this shipment to people in the southern and western portions of Puerto Rico, far from the San Juan area where much of the aid effort has been centered.
Rolls, who speaks regularly with her relatives, says Puerto Ricans are grateful to know that grassroots aid efforts are continuing on the mainland. “They’re glad for anything they can get,” she said.
Beyond food, Rivera said current needs also include over-the-counter medications, flashlights, diapers and baby formula. The group is also collecting lightly worn children’s summer clothing, and with the holidays fast approaching, would welcome donations of gifts for children affected by the hurricane.
The task force has focused its efforts on campus, but some in the greater Rockland County community have also offered to help. A teacher at Pomona Middle School enlisted fourth graders to fill shoeboxes with needed supplies, resulting in some 50 boxes worth of donations. A rabbi in Nyack also arranged a collection of items for the RCC shipment.
Sarah Petrak is a student assistant with the Office of Communications and New Media for SUNY System Administration. She is a studying Public Policy at the University at Albany.