Harvard Lends a Helping Hand

Students respond to Sandy with support for the relief effort

The storm of excitement, and to a lesser degree, disappointment on campus following Barack Obama’s re-election to a second term as President makes it easy to forget about the very real storm that hit the Northeast just a little over a week ago. While many of us celebrated the impromptu three-day weekend the hurricane gifted us, news of the devastation Sandy wrought upon New York and New Jersey brought us back to reality. After taking advantage of the extra day off to catch up on schoolwork (or not), many students devoted the rest of their week to help the relief efforts in any way they could. The response from Harvard students shows that despite their busy schedules, members of the student body can always find time to lend a helping hand.

The relief effort on campus was spearheaded by the Harvard College Red Cross, which launched a campaign on Sunday asking for online donations that would go directly towards the national Red Cross and its efforts to help the families affected by Hurricane Sandy. Appealing to students’ personal connections to the disaster, it emphasized that any amount donated, no matter how small, helped.

Other students found more creative ways to help with the relief efforts. On the same day that Harvard College Red Cross launched its online campaign, two seniors ran a marathon along the banks of the Charles River as part of an attempt to raise funds for the families hit by the storm. The two students were prompted to take action when the annual marathon schedule to take place in New York City that same day was cancelled in order to give the residents of the city time to rebuild and go back to their daily lives. Having already trained for the marathon, they took the lemons Sandy had handed them and made lemonade. Their goal was to raise one hundred dollars for each mile (for a total of $2,620), but over the course of the week they managed to almost double their original goal.

Everyone was affected by the storm. Many students had friends and family living in the areas affected by the storm, and those who didn’t almost certainly knew a friend who did. Although this certainly catalyzed the response, personal connections are not the only reason. Last year, when an earthquake and subsequent tsunami devastated Japan, students at the college were quick to lend a hand to the relief efforts. When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast over half a decade ago, students from the college organized a service trip over winter break to aid with rebuilding.

Fortunately, the zeal with which our student body approached the relief effort has been matched this time by the federal government. A day after the storm, President Obama declared the areas hit by Sandy disaster zones, opening them up to federal relief funds. In a welcome break from electoral politics, the Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, praised the president and his administration’s quick response to the hurricane. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which lost much credibility due to its lackluster performance after Hurricane Katrina, has shown that it has learned its lesson through a quick and effective response to Sandy.

While the efforts of those on campus may be only a small part of the larger national effort to rebuild, as the Harvard College Red Cross emphasized, no amount of help is too small to make a difference.

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