Category four Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico late September this year. The storm destroyed the territory, leaving more than three million U.S. citizens without electricity or running water. Since then, relief efforts have been slow going, inspiring some Trinity students to get involved.
Jenna Shultz, first-year and intended biology and classical studies double major, approached David Tuttle, dean of students, concerning a fundraising campaign she felt passionate about. Both of Shultz’s parents are in Puerto Rico working with the soldiers and their families. Shultz’s mother is the commanding officer of all federal military forces in Puerto Rico and surrounding areas. She has been in Puerto Rico working with the soldiers who have been rebuilding the territory since Hurricane Maria hit.
“They are literally getting up every morning, in the same conditions as everyone else — no electricity, no running water. They’re putting on their uniforms, and they’re going and they’re clearing roads. They’re helping other people and then they have to come home every night to the same conditions,” Shultz said.
Although there are larger organizations helping with the destruction in Puerto Rico, Shultz’s unique perspective inspired her to start helping from Trinity.
“There are a lot of large nonprofit organizations that are focusing on Puerto Rico as a whole, but they’re missing the military side of that,” Shultz said.
When Shultz approached Tuttle, he directed her to Trinity University Volunteer Action Community (TUVAC) and its advisor, Scott Brown, assistant director of Experiential Learning. Brown oversees the projects that TUVAC handles.
Brown met with Shultz and other TUVAC coordinators to discuss what they could do to help the soldiers of Puerto Rico and their families. They decided to create a GoFundMe campaign, so students, alumni and faculty could donate to help this cause.
Because resources are scarce in Puerto Rico, the students plan to use the donations to buy supplies in the United States. Then, they hope to get the student body to help package and ship them to the Puerto Rican soldiers and their families.
TUVAC coordinators have been working with Shultz to execute this campaign and get Trinity students involved in the process. Senior neuroscience major Ryan Reusch is the executive coordinator for TUVAC.
“I’ve mostly been working with [Shultz] to kind of take this big idea and come up with tangible steps to achieve it,” Reusch said.
TUVAC’s marketing and recruitment coordinator, Noureen Morani, a senior business analytics major, has been working to advertise the campaign. Morani organized tabling in order to raise awareness about Puerto Rico’s situation and the effort Trinity students are making to help.
“We wanted to do as much as we can and Jenna gave us access to do that, so we were happy to help,” Morani said.
This project is being promoted not only to students, but also to parents. Tuttle promoted this campaign to parents during Fall Family Weekend.
“It seemed like a natural connection as we had a parent in a prominent leadership role in a natural disaster making a direct plea for resources. And that seemed to resonate with other parents,” Tuttle wrote in an email interview.
This project is unusual because the effects of the campaign will be felt outside of the continental United States.
“What TUVAC does is we’re set up and designed as an organization to provide volunteer opportunities ongoing volunteer opportunities in the San Antonio community and in a way this is new territory for us — all of the hurricanes and earthquakes and other disasters,” Brown said.
To find out more on how to donate or volunteer, TUVAC will be tabling during Nacho Hour for the next couple of weeks.