York U professors and students organize Hurricane Relief Drive

York University Professors Andrea Davis and Honor Ford-Smith are organizing a relief drive of non-perishable items that will be shipped to the island of Dominica and other areas of the Caribbean devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Debris and furniture from devastated homes are strewn about following Hurricane Maria’s path through Dominica. Image courtesy of Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of Dominica

They are asking the York University community to consider donating non-perishable food items, paper products and school supplies to the effort. The Hurricane Relief Donation Drive will run from Oct. 5 to 20.

Donations can be dropped off at these locations: The Office of the Department of Humanities, 262 Vanier College; The Harriet Tubman Institute, 353 York Lanes, The Faculty of Environmental Studies at 137 Health, Nursing & Environmental Studies Building; The Office of Student Community & Leadership Development (SCLD), S172 Ross Building; and, The Community Safety Centre, 228 William Small Centre.

Many of the tiny islands in the Caribbean have been devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The islands of Barbuda and Dominica have been virtually destroyed with infrastructure, trees, vegetation and homes completely ruined.

Andrea Davis

“People are in desperate need, they have lost everything,” said Davis. “There is nothing left. I have one student who has been unable to contact his family in Dominica since Hurricane Maria.”

York University community members who want to help the effort should donate the following items.

  • New tarpaulins 16 x 24 feet or larger (urgent and required for shelter)
  • Toiletries
  • Toothpaste/toothbrushes
  • Flashlights/Batteries
  • Diapers: From infant to adult
  • Sanitary pads
  • New bath towels and washcloths
  • New baby clothes/baby bottles
  • Dried and canned milk
  • School supplies and paper products
  • Canned food
  • New underwear
  • New sheets, blankets and pillow cases

The two professors will be aided by 100 student volunteers and are hoping to raise enough donations to fill the York University Shuttle Bus. Working with York University’s Transportation Services, Campus Services & Business Operations and the Office of the Vice-President Finance & Administration, they will transport the donations to students and teachers at nearby C.W. Jefferies High School. The high school students and their principal are organizing transportation of the donations to Dominica and other areas of the Caribbean that are in need.

The group has developed a supporting statement for their drive. It reads: “York students, faculty and staff stand with the people of Dominica and other islands of the Caribbean as they work together to rebuild their homes and their lives. In an address to the UN, after the hurricane, Prime Minister of Dominica pointed out that small nation states like Dominica are on the front lines of climate change. Even though they have contributed very little to the environmental changes that result in storms like Maria, they disproportionately suffer its effects. We urge members of the York community to support the people of the Caribbean in their efforts to overcome the devastation caused by these hurricanes.”

Honor Ford-Smith

“When I spoke about starting this drive to my students, they asked how could they help and within 15 minutes, I had 100 volunteers on a sign-up sheet,” she said, “it leaves me without words and with so much gratitude.”

Davis, who is chair of the Department of Humanities in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, and Ford-Smith, who is an associate professor in the Faculty of Environmental Studies, are from the island of Jamaica. They watched in horror as the two hurricanes brought havoc to Dominica, Puerto Rico, the Turks and Caicos, the Virgin Islands, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, St. Kitts & Nevis, parts of Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

Faculty, staff and students interested in assisting with the relief effort are asked to email either Andrea Davis or Honor Ford-Smith. “We will need many hands to help pack the donations,” said Davis, “all are welcome to help.”