Lessons Learned From Hurricane Sandy
As I searched the Internet in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy which devastated the coastal areas of N.Y., N.J. and Conn., I was surprised at the outflow of generosity and participation in fundraising for the hurricane victims on college campuses.
With my resident advisor, I set up a collection table in the lobby of my dormitory in the weeks following Hurricane Sandy, which devastated areas of New York City where I was born and raised. My passion in collecting money to send to the victims, led me to reflect on what other colleges around the country were doing to publicize and organize students to donate to hurricane victims.
On SurveyMonkey, an Internet-based survey tool, I designed an eight-question survey and sent it to college friends across the country via Facebook. Knowing the increased engagement of college students in community service, my hypothesis was that campuses were doing a phenomenal job in organizing fundraising awareness and collection for Hurricane Sandy victims.
My sample size of 96 students revealed interesting statistics and shed light for me on creating possible opportunities in the future.
The results from my survey are as follows:
Of those 96 students, 44 were born and raised in the affected states (N.Y., N.J., Conn.). Of the students born in these affected states, 55 percent donated to Hurricane Sandy efforts. Fifty-two students were born in other states, and 27 percent of those donated to victims of Hurricane Sandy efforts.
Overall a little less than half of the survey participants (44 percent) donated to Hurricane Sandy efforts. Most donations were given to a dorm representative or the Red Cross.
Communication seemed to play a major role. Friends and relatives were the most common source of information, followed immediately by social media and TV — 50 percent, 45 percent and 40 percent respectively. Surprisingly, flyers on campuses and mediums for donations conveyed by college administrations were the lowest source of information reported for raising awareness — 24 percent and 15 percent respectively.
The majority of the responders to the survey found that they were not well-informed about the destination of their donations. Only 15 percent of responders stated “very clearly” and “extremely clearly” to this category while the remaining 85 percent, answered “moderately” to “not at all clear.”
An overwhelming number of responders emphasized that they would like their efforts to be given to service-related organizations and locations such as the Red Cross, food distribution centers (soup kitchens), health care centers, shelters and religious houses of worship (churches, synagogues).
Students reported that money, clothing and toiletry/hygiene items were the most valuable and sensible items to donate — 56 percent, 54 percent and 50 percent respectively.
See Table 6 below.
Sixty-eight percent of students found their college administration efforts in fundraising efforts for Hurricane Sandy unsatisfactory.
While the sample size is only 96 participants, the differences in percentage are apparent and point towards a powerful statement. Students clearly think there was more to be done by college administrations to organize and collect donations for the Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.
Although this publication may seem irrelevant, Hurricane Sandy was unfortunately not an isolated incident. Due to changes in our environment, hurricanes and other devastating natural disasters are becoming more prevalent each year.
As college students, we do not have the resources or the direct scientific knowledge to end natural disasters. However, what we can do is aid relief efforts, although we may be at a remote location.
When I arrived home, I spoke to many individuals impacted by Hurricane Sandy. The simple act of receiving a clean toothbrush helped not only to replace an item they no longer had, but it also made these individuals realize that someone cared.
As indicated by my results above, many students who responded to the survey agreed that hygienic products could easily be sent and would be very beneficial to the relief effort.
Although it may seem trivial, such a simple act is incredibly valuable.
I suggest that as students we discuss with the college administration about centralizing college/student efforts when raising money for disaster relief. It would create a positive statement for both students and the administration. Creating a central body, for example DREEC (Disaster Relief Effort on Emory’s Campus), a club I started, would be very helpful. I suggest that the mission be to organize and collect donations and efforts during any time of need.
DREEC will recruit student volunteers that are willing to distribute and disseminate flyers with information that point towards donation centers.
Michael Yakobi is a College sophomore from Manhattan, N.Y.
Cartoon by Mariana Hernandez