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Students and faculty team up for hurricane relief

01/06/1999

What began as one Miami University professor's efforts to generate relief for hurricane victims in Central America grew quickly into a community effort.

Ramon Layera, director of Latin American studies, learned from American Red Cross officials shortly after Hurricane Mitch struck last October that procuring medicine, clothing and food donations was - contrary to common belief - a low priority during the early stages of relief efforts.

"More than anything else, they needed cash," Layera said. "The highest priority was funds to help defray the cost of the emergency operations already underway."

Via e-mail, Layera appealed to students and faculty interested in Latin American issues and events. Elizabeth Rogers, professor and chair of the department of Spanish and Portuguese, made a similar appeal to students and faculty and to local residents interested in Latin America.

Immediately, the Miami community opened its wallets and purses. A group of students, led by Jennifer Pribble, Leonardo Brubaker, Christy Burke, Vanessa Costa and the membership of the Association of Latin and American Students (ALAS), held a fund drive outside Shriver Center. Also, ALAS, with help from a Miami sorority, hosted a benefit party for the victims of the hurricane.

Thanks to their combined efforts, Layera and ALAS sent a check to the American Red Cross for more than $2,000.

Their work is not done yet, Layera said.

"After the emergency is over, these countries need help with the reconstruction," he said. "We're especially interested in helping rebuild an elementary school in Ciudad Darìo in Nicaragua. Nohelia Rojas, a former graduate student who is now a faculty member in Spanish and Portuguese studied there as a little girl. We're talking to a sorority and to local service clubs about possibly helping us rebuild it."

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