By COLIN SHEELEY
“We cannot sit idly by” reads the description of the Students with Puerto Rico GoFundMe page. Beatriz Martinez-Godas, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ‘18 who started the hurricane relief fundraiser with the help of some friends from the University of Pennsylvania and American University last week on Friday, Sept. 22, certainly is not.
Martinez-Godas said that she and her friends created the page “out of a deep sense of anxiety and helplessness” in the days after Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico on Wednesday, Sept. 20. “Most of us couldn’t even communicate with our families back home. So that sense of helplessness led us to find a way to help even being so far away.”
At its creation, the page set a “lofty” goal of $15,000 which was shattered almost instantly by the rush of contributions. Now, standing at the $127,000 mark, the fund has garnered the support of 114 university contacts and more than two thousand donors, including Jimmy Fallon of the Tonight Show.
Donations continue to pour in while Students with Puerto Rico have moved on to their second stage of fundraising, requesting from each the 114 universities a thousand dollar contribution. They are also hoping to partner with other companies in a fund-matching campaign, where every donation to the page is met with an equal pledge from the organization.
The fundraiser has also partnered with the organization United for Puerto Rico, a fund established by the First Lady of Puerto Rico, Beatriz Rosselló, in cooperation with multiple commercial sponsors including Banco Popular de Puerto Rico, whose app allows users to transfer money instantaneously, without concern of fraud.
“Once you do it through the actual government of the country that needs the help,” Martinez-Godas said, “it becomes a lot clearer where the money is going to due to the different transparency efforts that they have to do legally.”
According to her, the reason for choosing a fund rather than a donation drive “is because we saw a dire need of basic necessities in Puerto Rico that could be fulfilled with the materials that could’ve been bought in Puerto Rico at the moment.”
Need for supplies is growing, however. Planes and ships carrying supplies and volunteers from the U.S. mainland have been delayed by the lack of undamaged radio equipment, as well as an old merchant law that prohibits the transport of goods from one United States port to the other on non-American vessels. Thursday, Sept. 28 the acting head Department of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke, reluctantly waved the 1920 shipping prohibition.
“the lives in Puerto Rico are going to change regardless…Every single person’s life in Puerto Rico is changing from here on out.”
At first, the donations will go to funding first-aid efforts on the island, transportation and medical care, as well as “basic necessities,” including water, food, diapers and feminine products. Later, the money will go towards reconstruction projects like rebuilding highways, schools and hospitals.
Although Martinez-Godas’s family is reportedly safe, “so many other’s aren’t. And even though my family physically is okay, and my home thankfully didn’t suffer grave damages, the lives in Puerto Rico are going to change regardless of that. Every single person’s life in Puerto Rico is changing from here on out.”
The Latin American and Latino Studies department has agreed to sponsor a donation drive at Fordham. They are currently looking for a room in which to hold the items, but in the meantime, donors can contact Martinez-Godas on her email: firstname.lastname@example.org or her phone: (787) 455-5025.
“While I do have a home to go back to in the sense of the physical house that I live in, I don’t have a home to go back to in the sense of the island that I just came back from this summer is not the same island that I would be going back to now,” Martinez-Godas said. “And it’s also the reality for so many people who came out of their homes after the hurricane and realized that life after this moment is not going to be the same for many months to come if not years.”