Disaster Response and Aid
It's very heartening to see the MIT community mobilizing to respond to our neighbors affected by the various natural disasters that have occurred in the past month. Many individuals and departments have reached out to us, and we are inspired by your concern and efforts.
Our primary advice to those wishing to support relief efforts is to make monetary donations directly to reputable organizations that are working directly in Houston, Florida, Puerto Rico and other impacted communities. These organizations are best positioned to assess the needs of those affected and direct resources to meet those needs.
Centers like ours have learned difficult lessons about intervening to support victims of disasters like Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. With previous disasters, well-meaning people often donated items to relief efforts before it was clear what was actually needed. These items frequently didn't meet the most urgent needs, required precious time from response staff already stretched thin, or diverted scarce resources toward shipping or travel expenses. Colleagues in affected areas are urging people not to donate items yet, unless they are to reputable organizations specifically requesting the items. They are also asking potential volunteers to refrain from travelling to these sites until the frameworks are in place to most effectively and efficiently use volunteers.
While we’ve previously shared some recommendations for people who want to contribute to relief efforts generally, we recognize that the needs and abilities of individuals from affected communities are significantly different.
For students from affected areas, we offer several additional suggestions:
Connect to your communities, family members, and friends as best you are able and offer support on a personal level.
Take good care of yourself. Ensuring that you are personally supported will better enable you to be there for your home community as time passes. Unfortunately, community needs will persist for a long time. Consider utilizing MIT resources focused on student support.
Support Boston/Cambridge efforts and organizations. For example, there are several organizations that serve our Puerto Rican community members. These organizations have local volunteer needs, are often connected to broader relief efforts, and can offer a sense of solidarity, community, and comfort.
If you choose to return home when it becomes possible, we recommend that you primarily be present to your local community, family and friends. If you go home, observe which local organizations are effectively delivering resources and supporting survivors; this will help you later as you connect with ongoing recovery efforts.
Consider long-term response. The PKG Center offers advice, ideas, and funding for student efforts in our local and global communities. We can support your efforts later as effective community partners emerge, infrastructure to support larger scale response increases, and community needs continue. We can also connect you to other students that have effectively assisted their home communities following natural disasters.
In addition, for fundraising efforts by student organizations at MIT, there are certain rules in place to safeguard donors and donations. If you do move forward raising funds, please consult the Student Activities Office.
We are happy to talk further with individual students and student groups to provide support and advice, so please don’t hesitate to be in touch with us.