Global Take Off: Puerto Rico and the UNC Center for Global Initiatives are accepting donations for local service organizations in San Juan as a part of the center's annual trip to Puerto Rico.
Donations will be accepted until the first week in March.
The program is not a service learning experience, but the organizers of Global Take Off: Puerto Rico decided to use this year’s trip as an opportunity to help local organizations in and around San Juan, following Hurricane Maria, which pushed the trip from December to March. The organizers took advantage of the delay to collect donations.
While large quantities of children’s clothes have already been collected, the Puerto Rican groups asked for donations of hygiene products, elderly care products, mosquito nets, cleaning supplies, basic first-aid items and school supplies.
Global Take Off: Puerto Rico provides a funded opportunity for students from UNC and Fayetteville State University who have limited travel experience and demonstrated financial need. Twelve students travel on a faculty-led trip to Puerto Rico to gain global experience. The program is part of the Center for Global Initiatives’ effort to open access to travel opportunities for underrepresented students, according to the program’s website.
“It’s really meant to be the first opportunity for students to have this global experience, and hoping to encourage them to have more in the future,” said Brandy Arellano, program manager at the Center for Global Initiatives.
Beatriz Riefkohl Muñiz, executive director of the Institute for the Study of the Americas, has been involved with the Global Take Off: Puerto Rico program since its development in 2015. She wrote that by continuing the program this year, students and staff are helping rebuild the island with Puerto Rican academic groups and community groups.
“The drive is an effort to help our friends and colleagues during a difficult time,” Muñiz said in an email.
The students participating in the trip, along with Arellano and Muñiz, will pack their own luggage in their carry-on bags and use their two checked bags to carry donations, she said. The team can transport 1,400 pounds of donations between them this way.
Junior Ayashe Ramey, a global studies major, works in the Center for Global Initiatives and helped Arellano coordinate aspects of this year’s trip. Ramey said the partner organizations that will receive donations are Corporación Piñones se Integra, Salud para Piñones, comedores sociales, El Programa de Servicios de Apoyo al Estudiante and Para la Naturaleza.
Awareness for the donation drive has been advertised on the Center for Global Initiatives’ social media pages through the department of romance studies and the Tar Heel Teamwork website, Ramey said. So far, the volume of donations has been overwhelming.
“We’ve got a ton of children’s clothes, which is great, like trash bags and trash bags full,” Ramey said.
The groups have also been collecting food through Carolina Cupboard and the program’s Discovery Dinner. Anyone wishing to donate supplies can drop them off in a box in Suite 3000 of the FedEx Global Education Center, Ramey said. Other donation drop-off locations are being finalized.
In addition to benefiting organizations in Puerto Rico, Arellano said she anticipates this trip will be transformative for the students participating. As part of the program’s pre-departure meetings, students will be shown pictures of Puerto Rico before and after Hurricane Maria to talk about how the island has changed in the past few months.
“That’s a new aspect which none of the other groups have seen or had,” Arellano said.
Jose Espino, a sophomore criminal justice major at Fayetteville State University, went to Puerto Rico with the program in December 2016. He said the trip gave him an opportunity to travel that he may not have had otherwise. He especially remembers the friendliness of the students at the University of Puerto Rico.
“On that very first day, we were all speaking to each other (and) working together,” he said. “And I think we enjoyed that.”
Espino said the trip was one of the best experiences he’s had in his life so far, and he has encouraged other students at FSU to study abroad to learn from the same experiences.
“The Puerto Rico Global Takeoff trip really opened me up to be more open to new ideas, as well as trying new things,” Espino said.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.