Tech contributes to hurricane relief

Photo by Casey Gomez

In the past weeks, members of the Tech community have begun multiple efforts to help with relief efforts for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma
and Maria.

According to Puerto Rican government reports, as of Oct. 18, only 19 percent of the island has power, and only 69 percent of the island has potable water.

A food bank that  group of undergraduate, graduate, and faculty members at Tech gathered 126 boxes of food and 139 cases of water that will be sent to be Caritas de Puerto Rico, a non-profit organization that focuses on aid to Puerto Rico.

A GoFundMe, called “Puerto Rico We’re PResent,” was created by members of the Tech community on Sept. 20 and has already garnered over $8,500 of its $50,000 goal.

However, devastation in the Caribbean from Hurricane Irma and Maria was not restricted to Puerto Rico — the U.S. Virgin Islands was also hit hard, as Sidharth Parwani, a second-year ME whose family is from St. Thomas, knows all too well.

In the days after Hurricane Irma, Parwani was anxious because almost all communications was knocked out from the island, making it difficult family and friends on St. Thomas to see if they were okay.

“Thousands of people lost their homes,” Parwani said. “Friends of mine called and said they were now homeless. I think it was two or three days after Irma when I finally got to call my parents.”

Luckily, Parwani found out that his parent’s house was still standing, and that his family members were not hurt, but the reports of damage around the island were overwhelming.

After Irma, Puerto Rico had been assisting with relief efforts in the U.S. Virgin Islands, but everything changed when Hurricane Maria roared through.

“Maria was a direct hit on us and Puerto Rico, and completely knocked Puerto Rico off the grid,” Parwani said. “So our sister island that was basically mothering us back to health also went dark.”

Parwani’s fraternity brothers at the Triangle Fraternity were concerned with situation in St. Thomas, and decided to try to do something to help. After contacting Kantwon Rogers, a CS 1371 instructor, and teaming up with MATLAB TAs, Parwani and the Triangle Fraternity decided to organize a Pie Your Matlab TA event in order to raise funds for U.S. Virgin Islands relief.

For every $30 donated, the student with the largest donation got the opportunity to try a pie at the face of their TA on Thursday, October 19. In total, twenty-four TAs signed up to be pied.

The Pie Your Matlab TA initiative raised over $1000 in total to be donated to the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, a non-profit organization which has been collecting funds for hurricane relief over the past month.

Following in the footsteps of other universities around the country, members of the Tech community have also digitally worked to assist Puerto Rico through a Mapathon event.

On Thursday, Oct. 19, students, staff and faculty at Tech joined efforts with the Digital Integrative Liberal Arts Center to update local maps of Puerto Rico using satellite images to assist responders during recovery.