MacDuffie Lends a Helping Hand to Hurricane Victims

A boat washed ashore by Hurricane Irma in Florida. Photo taken by RA Sarah Hoffman on her trip to assist with clean-up efforts.

Hurricane Harvey has been trailed closely by Hurricane Irma amidst a string of recent natural disasters, imposing havoc on communities in Texas, Florida, and various Caribbean islands. As these locations experience communal and infrastructural devastation, MacDuffie has focused community service efforts on aiding those affected.

The first natural disaster, Hurricane Harvey — a Category 4 storm responsible for an estimated $180 billion in damages — has forced educational facilities in the Houston School District to postpone their reopenings.

Currently, the Key Club (MacDuffie’s community service body) is collecting items needed by the members of the Houston Independent School District, namely clothing and toiletries. Although the club does not have a definite goal for items donated, Foreign Language teacher and Head of the Key Club Gloria Caballero says, “We’d love to send a whole truck.”

According to Caballero, MacDuffie is also interested in partnering with local schools and organizations to expand their relief efforts, already collaborating with a local community center in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Caballero believes that the present situation in Houston is “a realistic effort that’s being needed,” and that the project provides the students in the Key Club with the invaluable experience of contributing to the community on a national scale. “I think it’s a realistic and vivid experience for the kids to see,” Caballero explains. “People suffering in your own country… could give the students a different way of saying, ‘This is how I understand communities and service.’”

In Houston, schools are unable to operate until buildings are deemed structurally sound and both faculty and students are able to commute safely to their schools. Over 200,000 students are deprived of the opportunity to learn, and many also lack basic living necessities. The Red Cross, an international humanitarian organization, illustrates the importance of the Key Club’s efforts on their official website, stating “Massive disasters like Hurricane Harvey create more needs than any one organization can meet on their own.”

Caballero feels that MacDuffie’s contributions should not be exclusive to members of the Key Club: “This is a leadership moment for the entire community,” she says.  

Following the destruction of Hurricane Harvey, Category 5 Hurricane Irma inflicted significant damage across Florida and islands of the Caribbean. When Residential Assistant and College Counselor Sarah Hoffman witnessed the turmoil near her hometown in Florida, she immediately felt the need to help those in her former community and decided to provide aid.

“I brought large bags of donations…to the Little Haiti and Little Havana neighborhoods of Miami. For a few days we cleaned mountains of fallen trees, trash and debris off roads and sidewalks so work crews could get through and families could return to their homes,” Hoffman describes.

Category 5 Hurricane Irma was one of just five hurricanes that have experienced maximum wind speeds of 185 miles per hour; Irma maintained these speeds for 37 hours, the longest in history. Over sixty percent of homes in Puerto Rico were left without power, and the majority of the island of St. Martin was destroyed. The storm left nearly half of Barbuda’s residents without a home before making landfall in Florida on September 10. Evidently, great extents of damage were experienced by all communities affected.

In addition to the Key Club’s fundraising, Hoffman has taken an interest in providing the students and faculty of MacDuffie with a chance to aid those affected by the recent hurricane in Florida. “We’ll be figuring out other fund raising projects in the coming weeks,” Hoffman adds.

Hurricane Maria was a Category 4 storm that recently affected all 3.1 million residents of Puerto Rico. The devastation prompted the Key Club to quickly create an additional fundraiser, as the group “couldn’t just watch the affected people suffer and do nothing about it,” according to Senior Key Club member Jola Oke. Oke and junior Talia Wiesel co-led the “Dollars for Disasters” fundraiser, a community service effort in which students and faculty of MacDuffie were asked to donate at least $1 on Tuesday, September 26 to help those affected by Maria. The Key Club announced the next day, September 27, that the community had raised $600, and with a donor willing to match the funds raised by MacDuffie, the Key Club would be sending a $1,200 donation to those in need.

Yet the success of the fundraiser has positively impacted more than simply the victims of Maria; “I felt some kind of happiness that I’ve never really felt before,” says Wiesel, “Focusing on these other people in the world rather than the simple problems in my everyday life has opened my mind in an entirely new way and it has left me wanting to see what other amazing things our community can do.”

Caballero stresses that the devastation requires the collective efforts of the entire MacDuffie population, as well as their parents, families, and friends in order to help attain relief for those affected by recent natural disasters. According to Caballero, “People are going to be needing a lot of funding and help. All the help they can get.”