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Student government raises money to alleviate hurricane damage in Houston

| Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Hurricane Harvey swept through Texas and parts of Louisiana on Aug. 28, leaving flooding and devastation in its wake that displaced thousands, including many members of the Notre Dame family.

As has been the custom with most natural disasters affecting University students, Notre Dame student government responded with support for those affected. Friday, student government hosted a Grotto prayer service. Continuing their efforts, on September 1st they launched a ten-day fundraising campaign to raise money for a donation to Catholic Relief Services.

“In the past, it’s usually been standing in solidarity, doing a Grotto prayer service — which we did — but we wanted to take it to the next level and show that we really are supporting everybody, from the students here to their families back home,” Alex Kruszewski, student government executive controller, said.

To generate awareness for the fundraiser, student government has been running a social media campaign using #staNDwithHouston on its Facebook group.

“The hashtag we are using to do the fundraising is #staNDwithHouston, but we acknowledge that there are many areas in Southern Texas and Louisiana that were also affected greatly by the hurricane,” Becca Blais, student body president, said. “That’s why we chose such a national organization to donate the money to, so that that money can be distributed to all of the affected areas.”

Prathm Juneja, student government chief of staff, said that the idea for the fundraising campaign came about as a way to pledge support for all members of the Notre Dame family who may have lost friends, families or their homes in this tragedy.

“We are praying every day for a quick and safe recovery,” Juneja said. “While the money we may raise will only be a drop in the bucket of the billions of dollars needed for recovery, every cent counts, and we hope to continue be there for our peers in any way possible.”

Student government is pleased with the amount of support they have already received for the campaign, Kruszewski said, but are looking forward to more opportunities to fundraise at the Georgia game. They are currently working with the University of Georgia student government to coordinate efforts, Kruszewski said.

“The big push is to target alumni, get this out to alumni clubs and families and reach a national scope rather than just asking students to donate,” Kruszewski said. “We are more asking students to share the campaign to get the word out there.”

Students can spread the word through a campus-wide Snapchat filter that will be available on game day.

“It’s really cool to see that we can make a changeful impact for the students that this is actually affecting,” Kruszewki said. “That’s the biggest thing for us, to actually show them that we are standing with them, that we can pull together — and it’s cliche, Notre Dame uses this phrase — but that we can actually be a change for good in the country.”

Junior Dan Guerrero, one of the students affected by Hurricane Harvey, grew up in the Houston area. He is thankful his family was able to escape to safety, but feels helpless seeing pictures of familiar places severely flooded.

Guerrero shared his personal story at the Grotto prayer service and has been helping student government raise awareness. The reaction of the Notre Dame community, and the rest of the nation, has helped him see a silver lining in the midst of tragedy, Guerrero said.

“We see the true nature of society, people helping each other out no matter who they are, what age,” Guerrero said.  “From student government to a bunch of different clubs that came to the Texas club saying, ‘whatever you need we’ll help you out,’ it’s been incredible. That extends to the rest of the country in general — willing to do anything they can to help a complete stranger.”

Kruszewski said that this initiative is in line with this administration’s goal of “flipping student government on its head,” making it more student-centered. He hopes that tangible impacts like the Hurricane Harvey fundraising campaign will make students feel comfortable stopping by the student government office with other issues that affect them personally.

“Yes, we’re helping the victims of hurricane Harvey and really making an impact for those people, but for anybody that has these tangible impacts that happen to them back home, student government is the place that they can come,” Kruszewski said.



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