Supporting Our Caribbean Neighbors in the Wake of Hurricane Maria

As our community continues to recover from Hurricane Irma, our Caribbean neighbors begin their recovery from Hurricane Irma and then Maria — a catastrophic storm that wreaked havoc on islands like Puerto Rico.

In the wake of a disaster of this magnitude, many of us are left wondering what we can do to help. Fortunately, Valencia leaders have rallied in response to this question to identify multiple opportunities to assist in disaster relief.

Just as Valencia did in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Harvey, the College will waive out-of-state fees for students who relocate from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to Central Florida as a result of this storm. We hope this helps make college accessible, and can provide an opportunity for relocating students to continue their education or access new beginnings in the mainland, despite the hardships faced at the hands of this storm.

Furthermore, there and several other opportunities for faculty and staff to get involved in relief efforts.

The Poinciana Campus, for example, has launched a supply drive to support relief efforts both for Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. Through the drive, the campus is collecting the following items that have been requested by International Rescue Group (IRG):

  • Toiletries (toilet paper, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, deodorant, etc.)
  • Feminine products
  • Underwear
  • Diapers
  • Baby food and formula
  • Blankets
  • Tarps for sheltering

Donations can be made by placing items in the yellow boxes that can be found at the Poinciana Campus and District Office. These items will be delivered to the IRG location to be shipped to its destination.

You can also donate directly to IRG by clicking here to help them with their work to provide humanitarian support to these areas.

All Student Development campus offices are also hosting a supply drive during October. Faculty and staff may drop off supplies, such as bottled water, hygiene products, blankets, flashlights and cleaning supplies, to the Student Development office most convenient for them. For a comprehensive list of accepted supply donations, click here.

Student Development is also accepting monetary donations (a collegewide account is currently being established to receive these donations). In the interim, checks may be sent to Tracey Olsen-Oliver, director, student development, via interoffice mail to mail code 4-18. Tracey will collect these checks and deposit them into the account once it is established.

You may also participate in relief efforts by running in the Re-building Puerto Rico 5k on Saturday, September 30, 2017, from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. For more information on the race, click here. In addition, you can drop off donated supplies (such as hygiene products, bottled water and canned food) in support of the race to the Lake Nona Campus’ Information Station on the first floor.

There many ways to support our Caribbean neighbors as our Central Florida community rallies by creating events and additional opportunities to help those impacted by these storms, and we encourage you to support in the way that is  meaningful to you.

If you need help processing this tragedy, please remember that our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for faculty and staff members (and their households) for counseling and personalized services and support surrounding the impact of the storm. Employees can access EAP for counseling by visiting  www.liveandworkwell.com (access code: Valencia) or calling 866-248-4094.

Likewise, students can access the BayCare Student Assistance phone counseling services 24 hours a day. Students may not be aware that this free resource is available, so please be proactive in sharing the number for BayCare, which is 1-800-878-5470. Information about contacting BayCare is also listed on the back of our students’ ID cards. Furthermore, you may encourage students to visit with Valencia counselors.

While recent events have proved challenging for our community, together we are strong and together we will persevere.

If you have any questions about these efforts please contact Liz Suarez, Osceola, Lake Nona and Poinciana campus director, organizational development and human resources, at lsuarez@valenciacollege.edu or 407-299-5000, extension 4710.

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