Several UF student organizations collected donations for the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian’s devastation.
The Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity organized drives with the Caribbean Student Association, the Dominican Student Association, the Cuban American Student Association and Unión de Estudiantes Puertorriqueños Activos (the Puerto Rican student association). Donations end Friday.
As of Thursday, the student organizations collected about 400 pounds of donations, said Ajay Patel, Tau Kappa Epsilon service chair.
The organizations will drop off supplies at the Tau Kappa Epsilon house, at 1000 SW 9th St. Fraternity members will also collect donations from other locations including the Sigma Kappa sorority house and Mayor Lauren Poe’s office in City Hall.
The Bahamian government says more than 1,300 people are missing as a result of the Category 5 storm , according to Reuters.
On Saturday, fraternity members will deliver supplies to a site in Orlando coordinated by HeadKnowles, a Bahamian-led organization.
Damon Veras, a pledge of the fraternity and 18-year-old UF political science freshman, said he found HeadKnowles on a Bahamian government website listing reputable charities.
Veras, a south Florida native and head organizer of the drive, said he acted after realizing the storm could have hit the U.S. instead.
“It’s heartbreaking what happened to a lot of people’s homes there and the death toll and with all that going on,” he said.
Veras said he had not contacted HeadKnowles as of Wednesday but was planning to do so.
HeadKnowles is a private Bahamian-led organization providing relief to areas affected by natural disasters. According to its GoFundMe page, the organization previously supported rebuilding efforts in the Bahamas.
By Thursday night, the campaign raised $1.3 million. But it remains unclear how the organization will prove where these donations go.
Representative Kaché Knowles sent a press release that said the supplies will be shipped via air and sea and to volunteers partnered with shelters through Abaco, Grand Bahama and Nassau. The group did not respond to questions on distribution and confirmation on how the donations will reach their destinations.
The GoFundMe page was created on April 16 –– five months before the storm hit the Bahamas. Patrons can also send money directly to two unspecified bank accounts, routed in New York or Georgia. Funds from the page go to HeadKnowles co-founder, Lia Head-Rigby’s personal bank account and will be “promptly forwarded” into HeadKnowles company bank account, according to the GoFundMe.
The efforts hit close to home for the Puerto Rican student association president Kimberly Ramirez. When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico two years ago, she knew Latinx student organizations would be willing to help.
“Us Puerto Ricans, we felt their pain. As Cubans, they felt their pain,” she said.