You’re sitting in class, trying to take notes, but the only thing on your mind is the fact that your family group chat is quiet. Reports then come out with the body count, news articles pop up detailing the damage, and images of a home you once knew cover your feed.
My family is okay, but I can’t say the same for the rest of the island. Puerto Rico, home to over 3.4 million American citizens, just went through one of the most severe natural disasters in its history when Hurricane Maria unleashed a siege of flooding and winds upon it. The consequences are real: communication systems are down, whole communities have lost their homes, the entire island is without power and is not likely to recover for months. And of course, the situation is further exacerbated by the fact that Puerto Rico is in serious debt and is struggling to manage its fiscal crisis.
Let me be clear: This is a domestic humanitarian crisis. In conversations with some of my good friends on campus, I found that many of them did not know that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory. This was particularly troubling, given that Americans are more likely to donate to disaster relief in Puerto Rico if they know that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. Not only were my classmates unaware of the unique U.S.-Puerto Rico relationship, but the mainstream media has also shed relatively little light on this crisis at home. Finally, even though our President has promised to visit Puerto Rico next week, his tweets indicate an utter lack of empathy for the citizens on the island. While Puerto Rico approaches apocalypse, President Trump decided to instead focus on the debt that the island owes to its creditors.
It’s difficult to describe the cocktail of emotions I felt as Hurricane Maria passed through my home. Guilt, because somehow it felt unfair to be in a nice lecture hall as my family shoveled buckets of water out of the house. Anxiety, because I feared for the safety of my loved ones. Anger, because our President would rather criticize NFL players than address the humanitarian crisis. But, most of all, I felt utterly helpless because I simply had no way of reaching out to my friends and family.
Maria nevertheless reminded me of the resilient, loving, and proud spirit of Puerto Rico. Within hours, organizers both on the island and on the U.S. mainland rushed to collect resources and raise funds. With some friends from high school, I started “Students with Puerto Rico” and have raised over 100k across different campuses — even Jimmy Fallon donated 20k to the cause. However, there is a lot of work to do still and Princeton is in the perfect position to help out! Here are some of the initiatives you can help out with on campus:
● You can donate money directly to the Students with Puerto Rico movement. Make sure you write that it’s from Princeton! People back home will be so grateful our community came together for the island. All the funds will be transferred to “Unidos por Puerto Rico,” a public-private initiative started by the office of the First Lady Beatriz Isabel Rosselló and a group of companies in order to help the victims of the storm.
● A collection of student groups will be tabling at Frist this Friday. Feel free to stop by, take your picture, and Venmo a small donation!
● You can sign this petition.
● You can read up on Puerto Rico and be aware of the island and your fellow citizens.
In the end, any contribution would mean the world to me, my friends, and my family back home. The island needs your help, Tigers! Step up to the plate, and let’s fulfill our school’s motto together!
Diego Negron-Reichard is a senior in the Wilson School from San Juan, P.R. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.