In response to three devastating hurricanes that severely damaged U.S. communities in Houston, Texas; the southwestern coast of Florida; and the island of Puerto Rico, Community College Initiative (CCI) Program international exchange students studying at Houston Community College in Houston, TX and Valencia College in Orlando, FL have dedicated an unprecedented number of volunteer hours to help provide aid to hurricane relief efforts.
In One Month, Over 1,000 Hours of Service
In late August, CCI participants at Houston Community College experienced some flooding in their Houston neighborhood streets as a result of Hurricane Harvey—fortunately, they remained safe and dry in their housing. Shortly after Hurricane Harvey left Houston, CCI participants from ten different countries began volunteering with the American Red Cross at local shelters to help U.S. citizens and community members who had been displaced by flooding. Miguel Romero Rosas, a CCI participant from Colombia, said of their volunteer efforts “[the volunteers] did not know each other, but all of us had the same purpose and goal—making people smile and letting them know that we are here with them.”
As of early October, the 18 students that comprise this year’s CCI cohort in Houston had completed an incredible 1,179 hours of volunteering with the Red Cross.
Contributing Aid Beyond Community Borders
Just a week after Hurricane Harvey officially dissipated, CCI participants studying in Orlando, Florida at Valencia College prepared for another major hurricane to make landfall—Hurricane Irma. Even though Hurricane Irma did not end up severely affecting Orlando and CCI participants remained safe, other communities in Florida were not as fortunate. After the heavy winds and rain passed and as soon as curfews lifted in Orlando, CCI participants sought to help those who had not fared as well.
In the week following the passing of Hurricane Irma in the State of Florida, CCI participants at Valencia College answered the call to action by contributing a combined total of 247 hours in just 7 days. These hours were contributed at Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. Thereafter, they have continued to serve communities all over Florida and have contributed an additional 183 hours of service to Hurricane Irma relief efforts. In total, as of early October, the Valencia CCI cohort has contributed 431 volunteer hours to Hurricane Irma relief efforts. Matome Modiba from South Africa has made a particularly compelling effort by contributing 70 hours with the American Red Cross; he has even traveled to the most devastated counties with the Red Cross to lend assistance and time to families in need.
Beyond the mainland hurricane crises, the emergency in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria prompted CCI participants at Valencia College to look for even more ways to help. In recent weeks, Saleema Parven from Pakistan, Matome Modiba from South Africa, Evellyne Mandosir from Indonesia, and Phuti Dipela from South Africa have given 43 hours of volunteer service to hurricane relief efforts for Puerto Rico. By spending their hours working with “Feeding Children Everywhere” as part of their Orlando Cares: Puerto Rico Relief Efforts initiative, they have helped package 3.2 million meals for Puerto Rico.
CCI participants and their service have gone a long way in aiding efforts to help people in need in Houston, Florida, and Puerto Rico. Their sincere dedication to their host communities has made an impact on so many American people and their families and, in the wake of tragedy, they have proven that coming together is a powerful force.