Hurricane Maria Relief

GWU Students Organize Help for Puerto Rican Couple Affected by Hurricane

Students in a Gardner-Webb University social sciences course on “The Community” are taking their studies beyond the classroom. Taught by GWU Associate Professor Dr. Dianne Sykes, the class is raising money for a Puerto Rican couple affected by Hurricane Maria in September.

“They are the grandparents of Marcesa Harper, a 2011 GWU alumna,” Sykes noted. “César and Maria Acosta need a generator and a solar panel or two. They have health concerns and live on a fixed income. We hope that what we can gather will be a blessing to this couple.”

The idea to help a family in Puerto Rico came as the class studied various texts in their course. “We began by developing an understanding of what community means,” Sykes explained, “and how we can become a part of a restorative community—one in which members care for and are accountable to each other, and exercise their gifts for the benefit of the whole. Citizenship is holding oneself accountable for the betterment of our community, small and large. The idea was to reach out in a more personal way—family to family.”

Harper, who lives in Hendersonville, N.C., wishes she could go and help her grandparents. “They are having to adjust to a new normal, which is vastly different than pre-hurricane Maria,” she described. “Washing clothes with a washboard, boiling their water for cooking and drinking, and embracing the pitch dark as soon as the sun goes down are just a few things they are having to deal with.”

PJ Fuimaono, a GWU senior sociology major, said the class imagined being in the same situation as the Acostas and wanted to do something to help. More than half of the $1,000 goal has been raised through a GoFundMe page, and the class is also asking local businesses to donate items for a raffle.

Harper is thankful for the GWU students’ willingness to help strangers. “It’s humbling. They don’t know me or my grandparents but they feel led to make a difference in their lives,” she shared. “I have felt helpless thinking about my grandparents and my inability to help them. I am so thankful for my Gardner-Webb family, and I am proud of the community that supports its students and alumni.”

Donations will be accepted via the GoFundMe page through Dec. 1