UCA students offer help

Ericia Saunders was among the UCA students impacted by Hurricane Dorian.

by Daniel Adams

On Aug. 25, the eventual Hurricane Dorian formed in the Atlantic Ocean as a Tropical Storm. Over the coming days, Dorian would become a hurricane that stalled over the Bahamas and became a Category 5 hurricane. The storm had the second highest recorded wind speed at 185 miles per hour. The only other storm above it was 1980’s Hurricane Allen, with 190 miles per hour. It was also the slowest recorded hurricane with a speed at one point of 1.3 miles per hour while over the Grand Bahamas Island. 

At last check, the number of deaths related to Hurricane Dorian had reached 61. As Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis reported to the United Nations General Assembly, at least 600 people are still unaccounted for as the country continues to clean up. 

While people around the world watched the storm unfold, the University of Central Arkansas began to assist in its own fashion. On Sept. 9, the university’s Caribbean Students Association held a candlelight vigil in honor of those whose lives were lost and their own families who were affected by the storm. 

Ericia Saunders, a senior at the University of Central Arkansas, was one of several Bahamian students who had family impacted by the storm. Her relatives live in Abaco and Grand Bahama, which were the two islands most impacted by Dorian. 

“I do not check up on the news regarding the storm as it is saddening to constantly look at the images of the storm,” Saunders said. 

It would take at least a week for her to learn what happened to her family due to the phone lines being down all over the islands. She said her family is just one of many who have been displaced from their homes because of the damage. 

Over the next few weeks after the vigil, donations were collected around campus in an effort to help those who were affected by the hurricane’s destruction. 

Wendy Holbrook, the assistant vice president for student services at UCA, said that plans related to donations have had to change over the past few months. 

While there had been items gathered to donate to the Bahamas Consulate General, news came to them on Oct. 8 that the warehouse had gotten too full to carry any more physical donations. However, this doesn’t mean people cannot stop sending in monetary donations. 

According to Holbrook, the money that has been received has already been put to use to help Bahamian students at UCA. The students will now look through the physical donations to use what’s available, with the rest of the items eventually being donated to the UCA Food Pantry. 

“With the donations we have received thus far, we have helped pay for students’ books and provided them with funds for basic needs. We have allocated other university resources to assist with tuition and fees,” Holbrook said. Families have had damage to their homes or lost sources of income, which has made it difficult to help the students get through college. 

The Bear Boots on the Ground program, in association with the Caribbean Student Association, National Pan-Hellenic Council and Minority Mentorship Program, continues to lead efforts to collect donations. According to their website on uca.edu, there are still ways people can donate. 

Cash and checks can be dropped off in the Office of Student Life in the UCA Student Center in Room 207 or the Student Services Office in the Student Health Center in Room 210. They will be accepted throughout the academic year. 

Unless a local disaster occurs, Hurricane Dorian relief will be the priority for donations in the coming months from UCA.