Following the natural disaster Hurricane Maria, UCF students from Puerto Rico come together after their families faced devastation back in their home country.
Jose Rivera, a junior economics major, organized the UCF Puerto Rican Student Association to hold support efforts and awareness events as the group waits to officially become a registered student organization.
With sustained winds of 155 miles per hour, the island was left in complete devastation and no power. Many people in the states were unable to contact their loved ones in Puerto Rico for days.
“After the hurricane passed, I was trying to text my friends and my grandma, but there wasn’t any communication,” Jennifer Tirado said. “I was really stressed because of that. It’s been 5-6 days and no communication. I usually talk to my grandma and best friends every day.”
Tirado, junior industrial engineering major, said how much her family and best friends mean to her back in Puerto Rico, and how worried she was when she completely lost connection.
“The next morning I was really worried because it happened during the night,” Tirado said. “I went to sleep knowing the hurricane was there. All my family stopped texting at 4:30 am.”
Camelia Del Valle, a junior health sciences major, made efforts to call her brother and his wife thirteen times one day, but to no avail.
Del Valle explained that occasionally the phone would ring for a moment, creating some hope and then it would immediately cut out.
Students shared their pride of their home country as they mourn over loss of homes and cherished personal items.
“Puerto Rico is so beautiful, and we are in a very big crisis. It’s my home," Nicole Escudero said. "My whole family is there, I really wish I could be there, even though they do not want me there. It’s beautiful,”
Escudero, a junior biomedical sciences major, said she kept touch with her family in Puerto Rico throughout most of the storm.
“I got to talk to my parents thankfully during the hurricane,” Escudero said. “They told me for ten hours straight they would be trying to stop water from coming in all the windows of the house, just trying to let the house not get flooded.”
Despite the disaster and tragedy, the students affected said they try to remain optimistic, as the people they talk to on the island also try to remain positive.
“They all say, ‘we are okay, everything is destroyed, but there is life and that’s all that matters.’ So people are being really positive about it,” Tirado said.
The association is partnering with the Pre-Osteopathic Medical Association, CASA and Volunteer UCF to help collect donations and raise money.
Donations are currently being accepted in the Student Union, room 154 until Oct. 12.