Tufts community engages in hurricane relief efforts

Supplies for residents in areas affected by Hurricane Irma are pictured. Jumbo Hurricane Harvey Relief Effort has been fundraising online for disaster release with other groups on campus. Courtesy Photo Jonathan Lally / Defense Logistics Agency

In the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Tufts students have launched a series of hurricane education and fundraising campaigns to help support victims in impacted areas.

Jumbo Hurricane Harvey Relief Effort is one such initiative. Houston natives Joseph Caplan and John Peavy launched the effort after seeing the catastrophic damage wrought by Hurricane Harvey. 

“John and I grew up together in Houston, and we saw firsthand the damage of the hurricane which was crazy,” Caplan, a senior, said.

According to Caplan, he and Peavy, also a senior, assisted in the physical relief efforts soon after the storm. But he said that they did not want to stop helping once they got back to Tufts.

“We wanted to have an outlet through which we could help back at home,” he said.

Caplan also said he started the initiative to educate people outside of Texas. He said news media portrayals do not fully capture what it’s like to be physically present in a hurricane.

“We wanted to get stories about people who experienced and were affected by the storm or who knew victims from the storm so that people in Boston can be aware of what is going on,” he said.

Caplan explained that they are spreading awareness through videos of the flood damage in Houston and of personal interviews with people who were affected by the hurricane, posted on the Jumbo Hurricane Harvey Relief Effort Facebook page. They are also planning a fundraising effort with other established campus groups.

“We are working with the Institute Comedy Group to put up a show first week October which will be sponsored by us, so we are hoping people will send in donations,” Caplan said.

He added that Peavy will give a short speech about ongoing relief efforts at the start of the show.

Jumbo Hurricane Harvey Relief Effort has raised about $3,500 so far through 60 separate Facebook donations, according to Caplan. He said that the contributions were made after donors viewed the posted photos and videos.

“One particular story we posted about my middle school history teacher who volunteered as a firefighter during the hurricane reached over 18,000 views through social media shares,” Caplan said.

Caplan explained that, moving forward, the goal is to share the stories of more Jumbos affected by the hurricane and partner with campus organizations to fundraise.

The relief effort is not limited to Tufts’ undergraduate population: Jonathan Keenan, a graduate student at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, is donating ticket proceeds from the play “Real Life,” which he says depicts a day in the life of a Fletcher student, to relief efforts.

“I thought it was a great opportunity to put on a play in order to raise funds to help the people affected by both hurricanes, Harvey and Irma,” Keenan said.

Keenan did not sell tickets to “Real Life,” but instead asked patrons to make $5 donations.

The play was performed in the ASEAN Auditorium of the Fletcher School on Monday, Sept. 11, according to the event’s Facebook page. Attendees could also get Polaroid photos taken of themselves in exchange for a $2 donation toward the relief effort, the page states.

“We ultimately raised $1281 in total, out of which $600 was raised through Tufts alumni, $200 through a professor and the rest from the student body at Fletcher,” Keenan said.

Keenan said that the proceeds were donated to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent, which is working to support all affected by the hurricanes.

“We wanted to make sure the funds went to all hurricane [victims], not one or the other because hurricane [victims] occurred outside of the United States, such as the Caribbean islands, were affected even further,” he said.

Keenan, who is currently focusing on human security and environmental resource policy, stressed that relief efforts are ongoing since recovering from a hurricane is not a quick fix, as seen from past hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. He emphasized that people should continue to do their part and donate toward the cause.