As a Jesuit university with an emphasis on “men and women for, and with, others,” Fairfield University is looking for ways to help the devastation in Texas caused by Hurricane Harvey. To brainstorm ideas on how the University can help, a meeting was held in Counseling and Psychological Services on Wednesday, Sept. 6 by Susan Birge, the director of Counseling and Psychological Services. Others in attendance included Matthew Love, psychologist in Counseling and Psychological Services; Melissa Quan, director of the Center for Faith and Public Life; Kamala Kiem, associate dean of students; and Kathleen Byrnes, campus minister for Social Justice and Community Engagement.
All people present at the meeting had different ideas on how to help victims of Hurricane Harvey. Some wanted to collect money, others wanted to collect clothing and non-perishables and many had specific organizations that they felt were the best to donate to. However, they all agreed on one thing: they want students to be educated about what is going on in the world and aware of their civic duty to help when possible. Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs Jim Fitzpatrick ‘70 said, “we need to make students aware that they do have to consider the obligation to give.”
Senior Cara Gibbons, Fairfield University Student Association student body president, added “it makes it rewarding for students if we have a sign showing how much we’ve earned.” As members of a Jesuit university, helping people in need is important and expected whenever possible.
Birge stated, “to not do anything at Fairfield University is to not uphold our mission.”
However, we are not the only university aiding victims of the disaster. Franklin Pierce University is offering free tuition to 20 students in Houston whose colleges are unable to host classes this fall due to the hurricane, as stated in an article by the Huffington Post. According to the University of Alabama’s website, the university is focused on providing resources and support to their students from the affected areas, and are collecting gift cards, baby supplies, feminine hygiene products, clothing, non-perishable food and more for those affected.
There are two students on Fairfield University’s campus that are from Houston, one of which is basketball player Jerome Segura ‘18. Because of this, the team is sending sports equipment to Houston to help athletic programs and teams rebuild. To these students, or any others struggling due to Hurricane Harvey, Counseling & Psychological Services will provide information regarding the trauma and anxiety these disasters may result in, along with resources to better cope.
“I think the University has done a very good job of addressing and trying to attempt to help those in need,” said Segura. “We could’ve just sat and not done anything to help, but I know that as a basketball program we’ve sent over shoes, socks, and clothes, over to Houston. But I know there’s still a lot more we can do.”
FUSA plans to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey as much as possible. Gibbons had many great ideas on ways to contribute; FUSA will have a board of prayers for the victims outside The Tully sometime in the near future where students can pay $1 to write a prayer and have it hung on the wall and, eventually, sent to victims. The organization will also be exploring partnering with Stop & Shop to send non-perishable items to victims in need.
According to Birge and Fitzpatrick, students and faculty will also have the chance to donate money to the victims of Hurricane Harvey in the near future. At the St. Robert Bellarmine’s Feast Day Dinner on Sept. 17, students will be able to donate using their Stag cards. Faculty and staff will have the opportunity to donate at the St. Robert Bellarmine’s Feast Day. There is also intent to add links onto the my.Fairfield page to make donations accessible to students, faculty, staff, families and alumni. To encourage donation, a collage of photos of the damage done by Hurricane Harvey will be created and posted outside The Tully Dining Hall.
Many students seem willing to help. Sophomore Olivia Marcou, for instance, said, “I think what’s happening in Texas because of Hurricane Harvey is devastating and heartbreaking and I can’t even imagine what those people are going through.” When asked about how she thinks Fairfield should help, she said, “I think Fairfield should try to raise money by either holding a fundraiser or just asking students to donate to the victims.”
Sophomore Mallory Burlington said, “I live on the coast of New Jersey, so when Hurricane Sandy happened back in 2012, we got hit really bad. I know what the people in Texas are going through, and I feel terrible for them.” She thinks Fairfield should do, “anything we possibly can. Those poor people lost everything: their towns, their homes, and even their livelihood. The least we can do is raise some money, donate things they need, and support them through this hard time.”
As some students may have noticed, the Jesuit Universities Humanitarian Action Network (JUHAN), run by Julie Mughal, associate director of the Center for Faith and Public Life, had a table at the Activities Fair, providing information about Hurricane Harvey and collecting contributions. Students who have attended the Mass of the Holy Spirit may have noticed that the collection will go to Christos Rey Jesuit High School in Houston and St. Bernard Project/SBP, which helps with post-disaster needs.
Many of these organizations also plan to help with any damage that the incoming hurricanes, Irma and José, may cause.