Life has been a whirlwind for Laura Rivera since Hurricane Maria struck her native Puerto Rico, causing devastating damage, knocking out power, and leading to food and water shortages.
Rivera said it’s been difficult to focus on anything except what’s happening back home and thinking about family members and friends. But the fourth-year student has harnessed her anxiety and energy to help organize relief efforts for Puerto Rico on campus and beyond.
Rivera got involved early on with a GoFundMe fundraising campaign launched by college students nationwide—including one of her high school friends who now attends Fordham University—to support Unidos Por Puerto Rico, a public-private charitable initiative. The Students for Puerto Rico campaign’s original fundraising goal was $15,000, but the effort had raised more then $118,000 by Tuesday evening and now has a goal of $150,000.
Rivera, DMSB/AMD’19, serves as the campaign’s lead coordinator among Boston-area colleges and universities, and she is also spearheading a donation drive at Northeastern to collect household items such as canned foods, trash bags, toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorant, soap, and baby wipes. The drive will run for at least the next two weeks and donations can be dropped off at the Latinx Student Cultural Center at 104 Forsyth St.
“I’m giving this everything I have,” Rivera said Tuesday afternoon at Pavement Coffee on Gainsborough Street, where she was taking a short break from doing outreach and designing marketing materials for the campaign. “It gives me a sense of purpose.” Rivera praised the Latinx Student Cultural Center for supporting her through this experience and for serving as the collection location for donated items.
Second-year student Hector Santiago, E’21, is also from Puerto Rico. He supported the Students for Puerto Rico campaign and has helped spread the word through social media. Santiago said he’s been in contact with his parents in Puerto Rico almost every day, and it’s been difficult to be away as he hears and reads about updates on what’s happening back home.
“It’s a really strange feeling because I want to go back home and work on bringing Puerto Rico back to what it was before the storm,” Santiago said. “Being here studying, knowing I need to be here focusing on school, it’s been hard. It’s a feeling I never thought I’d have.”