WEST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — They’re college students with more on their minds than the next party or tailgate. Some students from the University of New Haven (UNH) are trying to get their campus community to think about saving lives in the hurricane-ravaged areas of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The students hope to rally people to raise relief funds that could help residents who lost so much because of Hurricane Maria. Students aren’t satisfied with what they’re seeing from the federal government so far.
“We are citizens and we contribute to the United States of America and to be treated like we weren’t even existing?” said UNH student Kayra Clouden, who’s also a native of St. Croix and still has loved ones on the island. “That was hard and it was hurtful.’
Another UNH student, Jason Torres, has family in Puerto Rico. He just returned from the island nation and shared pictures and videos of what he saw there in a forum at UNH called “Student Voices from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands: In the Aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.”
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“They’re not being represented properly in my opinion,” Torres said. “And firsthand, being there and experiencing this disaster and the aftermath, it was very saddening.”
Among the pictures they showed — a tree on top of a house in Puerto Rico. Kayra showed some roof damage to her family’s home in St. Croix.
“I was very lucky,” she said. “We just have pieces of our roof missing…..there are some people who weren’t fortunate enough to have a good foundation on their house and their whole house is gone. They don’t have a roof and they don’t have anywhere else to go.”
Jason pointed out to the audience that a big problem in Puerto Rico seems to be supplies not getting out to the people. He also says another thing crippling Puerto Rico is a lack of the basics people need to live.
“These people were waiting hours and hours just to get water and be able to do simple things like flush their toilet,” he said.
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“A lot of Virgin Islanders feel forgotten,” said Kayra. “It feels like we’re literally begging for help at this point.”
One person in the audience says he definitely heard the point their pleas for help. West Haven Mayor Edward O’Brien made a pledge to the students.
“Here in West Haven we are not going to turn a blind eye — we are not going to abandon you,” the mayor said. “We have started efforts to raise money.”
Those efforts include a “GoFundme” account set up by the city.
“It means a lot to know that people care about the issue at hand,” Jason said.