By Roshan Davis
The news of Hurricane Irma has been dominating the news as of late, with every major news station covering the disaster that followed so closely behind the catastrophic Hurricane Harvey. Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 hurricane, has terrorized the Caribbean and the state of Florida, resulting in dozens of fatalities and hundreds of injuries, as well as billions of dollars worth of damage. For many of the students at Towson University in Baltimore, Maryland, the news is unfortunate, maybe even upsetting, but ultimately does not affect them—everything they own and everyone they know are safe. For one group of students, however, the news coverage serves as a constant reminder of everything that is at stake: Their homes, their families, and their lives as they know them. With heads bowed and hands clasped together, a group of forty-some Towson students stood together in their university’s student union, praying for the safety of their family members hundreds of miles away.
The Caribbean Student Association is a cultural group on Towson’s campus. “[The CSA aims] to enrich the lives of students of both Caribbean and non-Caribbean descent in order to celebrate the diversity of their cultures,” explained Abigail Braithwaite, the Chief of Staff of the CSA and a junior at Towson University. “We seek to expose our community to the same love, unity, and happiness that is experienced in our home countries.”
“I first went to CSA a few weeks into the school year,” said Tyler Simonds, a non-Caribbean member of CSA and a junior at Towson University. “I liked how it was a learning experience for me, and that it was fun to attend.”
Many of the CSA’s members were born in Caribbean countries, and almost all of the CSA’s members have family still living on the islands. “Hurricane Irma affected families all over the Caribbean,” said Braithwaite, “and for people who have family there—it hit home while we were either at our homes or away, on campus. My uncle’s house and business were blown away due to Irma. He lost basically everything he owned … I was constantly thinking about all that he had worked for and where he would be living, and all the memories that had just gotten ripped away from him.”
This familial and cultural connection has led the members of the CSA to take matters into their own hands, and the students began planning several fundraising events for hurricane relief. The proceeds will all go towards repairing the damaged areas of the islands and assisting the families who lost so much of their lives to the destruction. “All of CSA knew it was going to be a good idea to fundraise, [to show] support and [to take action] for our loved ones and our countries,” said Braithwaite. “We started small with bake sales and raffles, and had a food sale of HIP HOP Chicken, but also did bigger fundraisers like Go Fund Me and an Applebee’s dinner night.”
Many people, both members and non-members, made appearances at the events, as the CSA’s unique style of operating fundraisers caught the student body’s attention. “I attended the fundraiser at Applebee’s,” said Simonds. “It was a lot of fun and different than any fundraiser I’ve attended before. Most fundraisers that I go to are very boring, but this one had music, food, and a lot of fun people. ”
“Our end goal was obviously to raise as much money as possible, but from what we have done in the past this was our most successful run of fundraisers! It was for a great cause too which made it [even] better,” said Braithwaite. “We are currently still keeping the Go Fund Me alive, but for now because the hurricanes have calmed down we have stopped heavily fundraising.”
The effort put into fundraising by the club’s members is just one example of how the CSA brings people from shared backgrounds together to create a family right on Towson’s campus. “[The CSA] makes me feel relaxed and comforted,” gushed Braithwaite. “If it was just my friends it would have still worked out, but because I am surrounded by people who have lived their lives like I have lived mine and who know the world beyond Towson University it makes it really easy for me to share exactly how I am feeling and to make this experience and process better.”
The Caribbean Student Association meets every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. on the third floor of Towson University’s student union. People of all backgrounds and ethnicities are encouraged to come and partake in the meetings and discussions. You can also find and donate to the CSA’s Go Fund Me at this address: https://www.gofundme.com/3khfj-hurricane-irma-victims.