Lending a hand from afar

Lending a hand from afar

Katya Saunders, third from the left, poses with fellow students in front of the shipping truck that picked up donations collected by the Bahamian Students Association to benefit those impacted by Hurricane Dorian

By Mike Piacentino

Katya Saunders, third from the left, poses with fellow students in front of the shipping truck that picked up donations collected by the Bahamian Students Association to benefit those impacted by Hurricane Dorian

Lending a hand from afar

By Mike Piacentino
Led by UM senior and Nassau-native Katya Saunders, the Bahamian Students Association collected more than 25 boxes of goods and 50 cases of water from the ’Canes community to provide much-needed relief to the Bahamas in the wake of Hurricane Dorian

When Katya Saunders, a UM senior majoring in public relations, scrolled through her Twitter feed two weeks ago, she wasn’t catching up on the latest trending topics. Instead, she was checking in on family and close friends as Hurricane Dorian ravaged the Bahamas.

The Nassau-native knew immediately that as president of the Bahamian Students Association, she not only had a responsibility to organize relief efforts, but she also had a personal and moral obligation to help.

“If I didn’t do something, it wouldn’t sit right with me,” she said. “I wasn’t there to help in the moment, so I knew I had to help out in some other way.”

Almost immediately, Saunders reached out to Jheanelle Miller, a fellow student and president of the Caribbean Students Association, who has organized similar donation drives in the past. And after being connected with Renée Dickens Callan, executive director of student life, and Andrew Wiemer, director of the William R. Butler Center for Volunteer Service and Leadership Development, Saunders went to work mobilizing UM students to donate to the worthy cause.

“I didn’t want this to be a passive donation drive like I’ve seen so many times before,” Saunders said. “Rather than just setting up a collection box somewhere on campus and hoping people donate, we tabled on The Rock and in the residence halls.”

Her strategy paid off. As students passed these tables, they often went back to their rooms to gather their unused supplies thanks to Hurricane Dorian’s abrupt turn away from the Miami area. In total, nearly 25 boxes of assorted goods and 50 cases of water were donated from all corners of the Coral Gables campus.

“We sort of started a movement,” Saunders said “Being in Miami, this could have easily happened to us, and I think students recognized that. Thank you to each and every member of the UM community who helped this cause.”

Saunders worked with a family friend in the shipping industry to coordinate the logistics of getting the donated goods to the areas that need them most. The donated items were picked up from Miller Circle on Wednesday afternoon and will be shipped to the Bahamian National Emergency Management Agency to be distributed.