Andrews University students to provide relief to Puerto Rico
BERRIEN SPRINGS, Mich. --- A group of students from a local university in Michigan are set to travel to Puerto Rico Sunday morning to provide relief to the island.
17 graduate students from Andrews University’s architecture program will depart from O’Hare International Airport for central Puerto Rico.
Professor Andrew von Maur said the students planned to travel to the commonwealth state back in July. The plan was to assist with the design of new housing and public spaces in a flood-prone, impoverished Caño Martín Peña in central Puerto Rico.
But once Hurricane Maria hit the island, von Maur said plans changed.
“We’re bringing sanitary products, water filters, tarps, batteries, flashlights, solar lamps and chargers,” von Maur said.
Rows of duffle bags filled with these goods lined the halls in the Architecture building on Andrews University’s campus.
“People I think are desperate and overwhelmed and when people desperate and overwhelmed, they need help,” said von Maur.
He said the settlement they will be serving has over 26,000 people in it. He added that after Hurricane Maria, 800 families were left without roofs and 70 families lost everything in the storm.
“Imagine going out at six o’ clock because the sun goes down and you don’t have any alternatives,” von Maur said. “And you gunshots and you hear screaming and you see and smell dead animals floating around in the street.”
Von Maur said none of the students have ever been in an area destroyed by a natural disaster like this.
“It’s going to be challenging, I don’t think anyone is under any illusions that this is going to be an easy trip,” he said.
Victor Perez, one of the students going on the trip, has family in Puerto Rico that he hadn’t heard from since Hurricane Maria hit. He said he was relieved when he heard his mother’s voice just a couple of days ago.
“I think they’re doing okay, I hope they’re doing okay,” Perez said.
But Perez said more needs to be done for the people in Puerto Rico. He echoes the message of Carmen Yulín Cruz, mayor of San Juan, who has recently called for more assistance for Puerto Rico.
“This is not a good news story, this is a people are dying story,” Cruz said during a CNN interview.
However, President Donald Trump took to Twitter today to express his discontent with Mayor Cruz and other Puerto Rican leaders. See his tweets below:
Perez said it’s difficult to understand why the situation in Puerto Rico is growing into what he calls a humanitarian crisis.
“We know this country has the resources and that in a emergency like this one,” Perez said. “You know when people are actually in risk of dying they should be caring and taking more attention.”