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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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MSC L.T. Jordan Institute to host “Soul of an Island: A Response to Hurricane Maria” event


Christine Nieves and Luis Rodriguez, the two Puerto Rican activists leading the recovery highlighted in the “Soul of an Island” program.

On Friday March 1 at 6 p.m., two Puerto Ricans will share their story in Rudder Theater on how they helped rebuild their community after Hurricane Maria.
Puerto Rico, the small U.S. commonwealth found in the Caribbean, was not prepared for the catastrophe that would result from Hurricane Maria. Immediately after the hurricane struck in September of 2017, the Islanders lost contact with the mainland, which impacted the ability to get an accurate sense of the disaster. According to the Evangelical nonprofit World Vision, Hurricane Maria left thousands of its citizens without electricity, water and other necessary resources for months.
The “Soul of an Island: A Response to Hurricane Maria” program unveils the truth about what it was like for a community of people to come together during the aftermath of a desperate time to rebuild. Christine Nieves and Luis Rodriguez are two Puerto Ricans who experienced the tragedy of Hurricane Maria and the panic that set in people to recover. Cory Arcak, associate director of MSC L.T. and Jessie W. Jordan Institute for International Awareness at Texas A&M, was introduced to Nieves and quickly started making plans to send students and staff on a pilot service program to Puerto Rico. Janie Davis, senior chair for MSC L.T Jordan, said the service program built relationships with Christine and Luis and aimed to expose students to world-wide issues and educational experiences.
“Originally, we went in June [2018], and it was a 10-day service program… We did our best to build relationships with Christine and Luis so that this program and this week could happen, and also we could go back [to Puerto Rico] in the future,” Davis said.  
Alongside Davis, other students from A&M and across the country participated in the service program to Puerto Rico. Ricardo Mercado, president for the Puerto Rican Student Association at A&M, also attended this project and gave his perspective of the trip as a Puerto Rican going to help his people and be a guide as well as a volunteer.
“It was really, really fantastic,” Mercado said, “We had a really good opportunity to show [the volunteers] about the culture and give them stories or facts that I knew. … We got to see a lot of the island, actually. We were on the road for a long time, and they got to see the scenery and the environment. I think everyone enjoyed it a great deal.”
Rodriguez said the event will cover difficult topics including lack of government assistance and preparations for future disasters. The experience will also include the opportunity to learn about the culture of Puerto Rico and how networking became a prominent indirect result of the hurricane.
“It’s an opportunity to know what is happening in Puerto Rico,” Rodriguez said, “It’s an opportunity to listen to Puerto Rican music. It’s an opportunity to understand and to listen to a story of a recovery and how people empower themselves when the government didn’t… The network that has been created after this hurricane, like being [at A&M] is part of it.”
Both Davis and Mercado had the opportunity to meet with Nieves and Rodriguez last summer and look forward to hear their stories impact others on campus.
“They have so many important lessons that they can share with our audience,” Davis said. “I think that everyone who attends that program is going to come away feeling like they’ve learned something and feeling like they’ve been taught about the right way to go forward and approach their own lives and their own struggles.”
Mercado said the event will be very impactful on attendees because of the distinct and inspiring stories by Nieves and Rodriguez.
“This event is an opportunity to learn from the mouths of Christine and Luis about what it actually means to be, basically, a responsible citizen,” Mercado said. “Christine is extremely educated and well-versed in helping communities grow, and Luis is a musician so he will also be performing his music that he used in keeping that community together. Essentially, it is a really, really fantastic opportunity,”
For more information about the event,

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