CERLAC launches a campaign to help areas devastated by Hurricane Felix

On the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 4, Hurricane Felix, a category five storm struck the northern areas of the Caribbean coastal region of Nicaragua. Reports, which are still coming from the remote area, indicate that more than 168,000 people were left homeless by the storm. More than 102 deaths and a further 113 people remain missing. Over 80 per cent of the existing social and economic infrastructure of the regional capital city Puerto Cabezas suffered significan damage or was completely destroyed. Both the Government of Nicaragua and the United Nations World Food Program have declared a state of emergency for the region and are calling for the international community to provide support in this emergency.

Right: A house in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, damaged by Hurricane Felix last week. The category 5 storm hit the northern Atlantic region of Nicaragua September 4, leaving thousands homeless.

Members of the York community associated with the Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC) are mounting a fundraising campaign to assist the people living in the area. The University has longstanding relationships with two important community-based organizations in the affected area. The Bilwi campus of URACCAN University, a relatively new, grassroots institution, founded in 1995, is the first postsecondary institution in the region to provide higher education opportunities for the indigenous, Afro-descendant and Mestizo peoples living there. The second is Bilwi-Vision, a community-based, non-profit television channel providing locally-produced programs and services to the area. A number of faculties, students, departments and centres at York University have maintained formal partnerships and exchanges with both of these organizations since their founding a decade ago. Both institutions were

severely damaged by the hurricane, and as a result, virtually all classes, programs and activities have been suspended until such time as their basic infrastructures can be adequately rebuilt. Both have issued international appeals for assistance.

CERLAC is urging members of the York community to consider making a donation to assist with the rebuilding of the area. Cheques can be made out to Rights Action, a registered Canadian non-governmental organization specializing in community development in Central America. All donations can be sent to the offices of CERLAC, 240 York Lanes, on the Keele campus, either in person or through internal or external mail. Donations using a credit card are also welcome and can be made by visiting www.rightsaction.org and clicking on the Canada Helps link. Be sure to make your donation on behalf of Felix-Nicaragua.

All donors will receive charitable tax receipts. Funds collected will be divided equally three ways – to a fund for general humanitarian relief in the region, funding of the reconstruction efforts on the Bilwi campus of URACCAN and for Bilwi-Vision. For more information, contact Shana Shubs, CERLAC coordinator at ext. 88705, or e-mail shanays@yorku.ca, or visit www.yorku.ca/cerlac/felix.htm.