Community, Features, Impact

Student groups collaborate to raise funds for Hurricane Fiona relief efforts

When Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico on Sept. 17, Madison Miranda knew she had to help out, and she used her unique position to accomplish her goal.

Hurricane Fiona
The aftermath of Hurricane Fiona in Salinas, Puerto Rico in September. Boston University students from the Puerto Rico Student Association and Questrom Student Government started a Hurricane Fiona relief fund. COURTESY OF ALEJANDRO GRANADILLO/AP PHOTO

Miranda, a junior in Questrom School of Business, is president of both the Boston University Puerto Rico Student Association and Questrom Student Government. Miranda mobilized the groups to start a Hurricane Fiona relief fund.

Miranda said other than trying “to raise awareness” and “organize relief efforts,” it’s difficult to have an impact “being so far from Puerto Rico.”

“Our biggest worry right now is midterms,” Miranda said. “Meanwhile, there are parts of our family that [their] house’s flooded, and there’s nothing we can do from here.”

Hurricane Fiona was categorized as a Category 1 hurricane when it hit Puerto Rico, with some areas receiving more than 30 inches of rain. Days after Fiona hit, 928,000 households were out of power and, according to the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority, 760,000 households had no water service or severe interruptions.

For Miranda, she said this wasn’t the first time she worked in hurricane relief. The inspiration came from a relief fund her parents had started in 2017 when Hurricane Maria struck, she said.

Miranda said they collected physical non-perishable items when all the stores shut down, and would hand deliver items in every town to people “who had lost their house or still didn’t have electricity or running water.”

“Me and my best friends in high school would go and help them make the care packages after school,” Miranda said. “It’s something that definitely holds a big place in my heart, being able to give back to Puerto Rico however I can.”

After logistical difficulties with shipping non-perishables and clothing items, Miranda said she worked with Rachel Reiser, assistant dean for undergraduate student experiences & services at Questrom, and they decided to fundraise through a third party to ensure the money would be “used correctly.”

Reiser said Miranda had come to “brainstorm” ideas with her on how they could help.

“My goal as an administrator and an educator is not necessarily to just be like ‘okay, here’s the answer, here’s everything you do,’” Reiser said, “but kind of collaborate. Be a thought partner when it’s applicable.”

Reiser said part of the process is bouncing thoughts “back and forth.” Most of the ideas came from Miranda — who Reiser said has just “taken it and ran.”

Fabian Agostini, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Science and public relations chair of BU PRSA, said he felt “guilty being here so far away from home wishing [he] could do more.”

“It hurts to see my family, their families, all the families and the people that we don’t know, being affected, not having electricity, water, all the basic necessities,” Agostini said. “I feel like this is just my small contribution to something bigger than myself.”

Wally Fulweiler, a professor of earth and the environment and biology at Boston University, said what the PRSA is doing to organize funds is a “great idea.”

“If people don’t have their house and can’t have access to fresh water and maybe can’t work… maybe their job is also impacted,” Fulweiler said. “Then they are not having money come in and they can’t buy the things that they basically need to live.”

For student groups looking to organize fundraising efforts, Reiser said she recommends they “not just do it solo, but look for a partnership to be as effective as possible.”

“We’re all one community,” Reiser said. “Everyone’s expending some energy and some planning and some figuring out on the same thing. If they did that together, think how much simpler it would be, the power of numbers.”

After four weeks of fundraising, Miranda said the effort ended last week because BU Student Government will be starting their relief efforts. But she said “people seemed really happy” that they were taking action.

“It’s honestly been so heartwarming,” Miranda said. “The students who don’t call Puerto Rico their home, they’re realizing the effect that Hurricane Fiona had on Puerto Rico.”


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