Students at UConn Health have designed and begun selling t-shirts to raise money for the United for Puerto Rico initiative.
“The idea with the t-shirt is, rather than it being for one event… it’s this broader effort. It’s all of UConn and you can feel like you and your fellow huskies are united for one cause,” said Cristina Valentin, a medical student and one of the chief organizers of the effort.
The t-shirt features a design of UConn’s mascot, Jonathan the husky, with the national animal of Puerto Rico, the coquí, alongside the Puerto Rican flag.
United for Puerto Rico, or Unidos por Puerto Rico, is a fundraising effort started by the first lady of Puerto Rico, Beatriz Rosselló. One hundred percent of the profits generated from the sale of these t-shirts, minus the $10 cost of producing the shirts, will go to United for Puerto Rico, Valentin said. People can also donate without purchasing a shirt.
Valentin said the students who worked on developing this initiative thought raising money would be more helpful than doing a resource drive.
“The idea with us raising money is because…it (is) the best way to help because it’s converted to what (people in Puerto Rico) need,” Valentin said.
Valentin said she hopes the shirt will provide an incentive for people to donate or, if they already donated, to donate again in order to get the shirt as well as creating a visual display of inter-campus support.
“It’s going to send a message, it’s not just the money that it’s raising, but (it’s) the support that people feel that they have,” Valentin said. “Everyone is very supportive, not just Latinos, non-Latinos too. It makes it easier to keep going.”
Valentin said one of the strongest motivators for her to work on fundraising efforts for Puerto Rico was how close the issue hit to home for her and other students.
“We just felt like we had to do something because we are so affected and we can’t really think about anything else,” Valentin said. “How are we supposed to study, how are we supposed to concentrate or focus (when) our minds keep going back to our families back home.”
Valentin said she grew up in Puerto Rico and moved to America to study medicine at UConn but her family is still in Puerto Rico.
“Some of us were lucky…I got to hear from my mother the evening after the storm and know that my immediate family was alright. But some people waited days to hear from their families because they just couldn’t get in contact,” Valentin said.
Echoing the critical sentiments of many in the country right now, Joshua Colon, a senior communications and marketing major, who has family in Puerto Rico said President Trump’s response to the crisis in Puerto Rico has been “disrespectful, unfair and inconsiderate.”
“There’s a clear difference in terms of treatment,” Colon said in terms of the difference in the speed and effectiveness of the executive’s response to Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas shortly before Hurricane Maria, versus his responsiveness to helping the people of Puerto Rico.
Kathleen Vargas, a fifth-semester social work major, said she thinks Trump’s delayed response only came after public attention faulted him for his lack of one.
“I think he’s doing something now because everyone…was calling him out, not because he genuinely cares about Puerto Rico,” Vargas said.
Vargas said Trump’s response to Hurricane Maria outlines deeper racist trends in America.
According to Vargas, “a lot of people in charge in politics right now see Hispanics and Latinos as minorities…a lot of America was built on the back of (minorities) so why are we treated differently?”
Colon said he has been helping by donating food and publicizing ways for people to donate on social media.
“I donated a lot of my food, which I don’t have much of…a little bit goes a long way,” Colon said.
Colon said he thinks people should help send aid to Puerto Rico right now because the people of Puerto Rico are American citizens.
“(Puerto Ricans) are citizens as much as any of us,” Colon said.
Students can order shirts online for $20 and they will be shipped to them. Students at UConn Health may also pick their shirts up on campus.
The campaign will run until Oct. 12. Shirts will be delivered approximately two weeks after the campaign ends.
As of Monday afternoon, the site has sold 105 shirts and raised $2,206.
“My goal is to have people from all the UConn campuses support the cause,” Valentin said. “If you walk across campus and you see someone with (the) shirt...it makes you feel supported.”
As of Monday afternoon, only 15 percent of the island had power and only 28 percent of cell towers were functioning. Sixty percent of the island has drinkable water, but only 31 percent does in the north according to the status.pr website.
Valentin said she feels people should want to donate because the people of Puerto Rico are suffering right now.
“It’s just a human helping another human,” Valentin said.
Anna Zarra Aldrich is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She tweets @ZarraAnna.