By Megan Palumbo & Michael Bueno – Sports Editor & Opinion Editor
On August 30, Hurricane Irma hit the island of Puerto Rico. Less than a month later another major storm, Hurricane Maria, overlapped Irma’s path, destroying everything in its way. Senior Nashalis Ayala was terrified when she heard the news. She immediately thought of her grandfather that was living in Dorado, Puerto Rico when the hurricanes came through.
“The first thing we did was call him and call him and call him. We couldn’t really reach him or anything, which was terrifying,” said Ayala. A week or so went by with tons of questions unanswered and emotions scattered.
Then, she received a call from her grandfather’s neighbors. “They told us that he was fine, it was just the house that was a disaster. It didn’t have a roof, the foundation is not stable anymore, but he’s fine now. It’s just rebuilding the house,” she said.
Ayala’s heavy sadness for what happened to a place she calls home quickly turned into a way that she could help. “Seeing everything that [he] was going through, and having so much fear that our little island wasn’t going to get back up and running in time,” Ayala said. “That’s when I decided I need to do something.”
The Lasell senior talked with faculty to put together a fundraiser. She cooked traditional Puerto Rican food and sold it at symposium last semester. “I’ve always liked to give back. That’s the way I was raised. Even if it’s a little bit, it makes a big difference,” Ayala said.
With the help of fellow students and professors, Ayala successfully raised over $500 in less than 3 hours. “I was very excited, and I felt relieved because I knew I was helping someone. I didn’t know who it was, but I knew I was helping my fellow Puerto Ricans. It made me really happy,” said Ayala. The money raised by Ayala went to a foundation called Unidos Por Puerto Rico. “I didn’t really have a goal,” said Ayala. “Even if it’s a little bit, it will help.”
Unidos Por Puerto Rico is an organization that provided aid to individuals and small businesses that were affected by the hurricanes. According to the organization’s website, they received over $36.6 million and distributed to over 74 nonprofit organizations.
Ayala not only raised money to help individuals in need, she also brought hope to the island that experienced so much destruction. “I called my family after to tell them how much money I raised, and they were super proud,” Ayala said.