Editorial: How is UConn aiding in natural disaster relief?

Marlene Ojeda carries her son through the Rio San Lorenzo de Morovis in Puerto Rico, after the bridge that crosses the river was swept away by Hurricane Maria, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017. Faculty and students at UConn are working together to help those affected. (Gerald Herbert/AP)

Marlene Ojeda carries her son through the Rio San Lorenzo de Morovis in Puerto Rico, after the bridge that crosses the river was swept away by Hurricane Maria, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017. Faculty and students at UConn are working together to help those affected. (Gerald Herbert/AP)

Since the start of the school year, our planet has seen more natural disasters in a more condensed period than many of us can ever recall. With three major hurricanes and three earthquakes hitting widespread parts of North America all within the last month, there is no question many University of Connecticut students and their families have been affected by these tragedies. The university, of course, has been trying to alleviate some of the burden felt by students in the wake of these emergencies by helping affected students get in touch with their families and continuously supporting those afflicted. However, the question remains: What exactly are we doing to help and should we be doing more?

Out of all the tragedies that have struck recently, it is clear not all of them are being aided equally. While Hurricanes Harvey and Irma were both met with strong support and relief from the federal government, many people are concerned the same is not happening for the effects of Hurricane Maria. While it is true that distributing supplies and getting information from an island versus the mainland of the United States is a different and more difficult task, it also remains true that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory and populated by U.S. citizens. These people deserve the same help and treatment others have received following these natural disasters and should be prioritized in the same manner as the previous hurricanes have been.

Where the federal government is failing, however, is where other organizations need to step up. Throughout all the uncertainty regarding the state of Puerto Rico and its occupants, UConn students and faculty have been working together to reach out to students affected by Hurricane Maria and the earthquakes in Mexico in an attempt to reconnect them with family members. In addition, the Puerto Rican/Latin American Cultural Center (PRLACC) is also looking for ways to gather materials and supplies to send to affected areas to aid in relief.

While both efforts by the UConn community are excellent examples of ways we can help during times of hardship, it is important to remember that just because you may have not been directly affected by these disasters, you can still give back. The UConn community must stand strong and work together to help relief efforts in Mexico and Puerto Rico. If the federal government will not be there for those affected, then it is our duty to do more and help in any way we can. These tragedies may have beat our country down, but it is standing together and being there for each other that will help to build us back up.