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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

St. Joe’s community supports students from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Fiona


The Alpha Phi fraternity hosted a bake sale outside Campion Student Center Sept. 28 which raised $1,200 for Regalo De Amor, an organization that has been providing relief for Puerto Ricans impacted by Hurricane Fiona.

After hearing that the St. Joe’s Puerto Rican community was in search of an organization to partner with for a fundraiser, Rachel Monper ’23, a member of Alpha Phi, said she didn’t hesitate to step up.

“Whether or not people realize it, we have such a big population [of St. Joe’s students] from Puerto Rico,” Monper said. “Puerto Rico is part of the United States. It doesn’t feel like it, but it’s true. Nobody was helping and they saw that, and they saw all their friends at home struggling and came to us.”

Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico Sept. 18, bringing up to 25 inches of rainfall, with potential to reach 35 inches according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The excess water caused severe flooding and persisting risks of landslides.

Gabriela Garcia Kranz ’23 from Levittown in the northeastern part of Puerto Rico, the island known as the metro area, said her family lost power and water for over a week due to the hurricane.

“I wasn’t able to talk to my parents for more than five minutes because the signal was down,” Kranz said. “Honestly, it got to the point that I was just not focused in class some of the time. It’s just hard not being there for your people.”

San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico which sits on the northeast coast, wasn’t hit as hard as the southern area of Puerto Rico. San Juan is home for Manuel Eboli ’23 and his family, who lost power for a period of time. Despite the Puerto Rican government bringing in a private energy company to help restore power, it could be months until his family gets their power back.

“The thing without light is there’s no air and it’s hot all year, so it’s like 80 degrees to 90 degrees plus, all year,” Eboli said. “So you’ll be sleeping at night without air, which is horrible. You’re sweating all night.”

Eboli said he wishes he could be back home to help, but is still grateful to be studying at St. Joe’s.

“We fortunately have money to leave the island and go pursue an education out of the island,” Eboli said. “But there’s people around the island that don’t have those benefits. And those were the people that got mostly impacted by this hurricane.”

Regalo De Amor, a non-profit organization that collects donations of non-

perishable food items and directly gives them to families in need in Puerto Rico, is run by the parents of Sebastian Jaen ’23, who is from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Founded in 2009, Regalo De Amor began with food drives around Christmastime. But after a series of earthquakes in 2020, natural disaster relief became the primary focus.

The support from both Puerto Rican and other students on campus has been helpful, Jaen said “Having that support system around me of Puerto Rican students here in St. Joe’s, it’s definitely special and definitely really soothing in times of disaster,” Jaen said. “Being able to share my experiences with people that can definitely relate to me is really important.”

Members of St. Joe’s Campus Ministry have been offering pastoral support for any affected students, inviting them in for conversations about their needs, and helping to determine concrete ways to donate. Beth Ford McNamee, assistant director of Campus Ministry, said the hurricane’s impact is palpable on campus.

“When one community is affected, our whole St. Joe’s community is affected,” McNamee said. “At times like this, especially for students who have been friends and family affected, it can be really challenging.”

Beyond Hawk Hill, Philadelphia is home to many organizations supporting victims of Hurricane Fiona. Taller Puertorriqueño is a community-based cultural organization in North Philadelphia whose purpose is to preserve, develop and promote Puerto Rican arts and culture. The organization created a fundraiser for three Puerto Rican based organizations.

“We hope to be able to facilitate the aid to the amount of damage that has been done in Puerto Rico because of the hurricane, not only in terms of infrastructure, but whatever the need is,” said Ashleen Castillo, program coordinator for Taller Puertorriqueño. “We have raised about $15,000. So that’s amazing. And we’re hoping to be able to keep raising that amount so more people can be impacted with that relief.”

At a national level, U.S. President Joe Biden recently approved a declaration of disaster for Puerto Rico, allowing FEMA to engage in emergency protective measures and assistance, all of which is funded by the federal government.

Jaen said he feels for his peers whose families were impacted more severely than his. As he is from the northern part of the island, his area wasn’t hit nearly as badly as the southern parts were. Some of his friends, however, have families who live in the southern parts of the island.

“I was speaking to some other students the other day, and some of their houses don’t have power or water yet, so it must be hard for them,” Jaen said. “Because if it’s hard for me right now, knowing that my family is still fine, I can’t imagine my friends over here that their families are still struggling.”

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