In the wake of Hurricane Fiona hitting the Caribbean on Sept. 18, the Princeton Caribbean Connection (PCC) came together on campus to support and help rebuild their community.
From Oct. 3 through Oct. 6, the PCC and Coffee Club hosted a fundraiser at their Campus Club location to support Puerto Rico. Customers at Coffee Club received 30 percent off of any drink if they presented proof that they had donated to one of three organizations: Brigada Solidaria del Oeste, Techos Pa Mi Gente, and El Comedor de la Kennedy.
In Puerto Rico, Hurricane Fiona knocked out power grids across the country, leaving nearly half of 1.5 million power customers without electricity for six days afterward. The PCC wanted to help.
“I had this idea,” Jorge Hernández ’24, a board member of PCC, said in an interview with The Daily Princetonian. “It was a lot of talking with my family back home just asking what I can do?”
Svetlana Johnson ’24 told the ‘Prince’ that taking advantage of Coffee Club’s popularity on campus could help raise awareness.
“We decided that Coffee Club would be a really easy organization to work with,” Johnson said in an interview with the ‘Prince.’ “Students are addicted to caffeine.”
According to Johnson, Coffee Club’s affiliation with the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students as a student agency prevents them from donating revenue directly to nonprofit organizations. Instead of donating proceeds from the event directly to the organization, the PCC and Coffee Club decided to offer discounts to students who donated and direct the campus community to the donation pages of the organizations themselves.
“Coffee Club was really helpful with putting stuff up and mentioning it to people when they were ordering,” Kimberly Cross ’25, co-president of PCC, said in an interview with the ‘Prince.’
Though the PCC was unable to track exactly how much each student donated, they were able to track how many students followed the links to donate. In total, 215 individuals followed the links.
“Although it might not be like thousands of dollars, it’s just the fact that we were able to, even if it was just a week, bring awareness to the issue and shed light on ‘this is happening and you should care,’” Cross said.
Although Hurricane Fiona has had devastating impacts on the region, PCC noted that when Hurricane Ian hit the coast of the United States 10 days later on Sept. 28, media attention on Fiona dissipated.
“Fiona hit, and then Ian hit, and then within five seconds, all of the coverage for Fiona collapsed since Ian hit Florida,” Johnson said. “I think that tends to happen a lot because we don’t get a lot of coverage as a region.”
Members of the PCC also voiced their general frustration with the lack of awareness surrounding the Caribbean community on campus.
“Places like the Caribbean only get mentioned either as a tourist destination or as a place where tragedies happen,” Hernández said.
“Focusing on trauma doesn’t help,” Johnson continued. “[T]he focus should be on being able to rebuild and to come back better.”
In addition to trying to change the narrative about the Caribbean, the PCC encouraged the Princeton community to educate themselves on the Caribbean.
“We’re a cool place. But when people think of the Caribbean, they think, ‘Oh, it’s just pretty,’ but we’re so much more than pretty. We’re full of life and energy. And our culture is amazing and worth exploring,” Johnson said.
In the future, the PCC hopes that the group can provide an affinity space and continue to bring awareness to the region.
“The Caribbean community of Princeton is not the largest population, but it is so vibrant,” Cross said. “And we will definitely continue to incorporate more advocacy in the stuff we do.”
Eden Teshome is an Associate Podcast Editor and news contributor at the ‘Prince’ from Ellicott City, MD. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @edteshome.