“We have made contact with every student’s families:” MTSU President launches relief effort for Bahamian families after loss of niece


MTSU President Sidney McPhee dedicating the Blue Raider Bridge on Thursday, September 5. (Photo courtesy of MTSU's J. Intintoli.)

Although Hurricane Dorian continues to slam the east coast, the effects of the storm have already been astoundingly far reaching for many— even far enough to impact those at Middle Tennessee State University.

In both an interview with Sidelines and an official release to the student body, MTSU President Sidney McPhee announced that he is re-instituting the Raider Relief program in the wake of the damage the storm inflicted on his home country.

“We are re-instituting a program we put together during (Hurricane Maria),” McPhee said in his interview with Sidelines, explaining that the program had been borne out of the needs of one of MTSU’s basketball players during the storm.

“(His) family had major, major damage during the Puerto Rican storm. So we instituted this Raider Relief, we got donations from the community, the university, and then we got a list of all of the needs from the family, rather than guessing what their needs were. We asked them to tell us, and then we bought it and we delivered it to them. Medicine, food, water, clothes. And so we’re doing the same thing here for the people of the Bahamas.”

The fast response to the storm is due to the extreme destruction that was wrought. McPhee is one of 51 Blue Raiders who has family or friends directly affected by the hurricane: seven of these being from Freeport and Abaco, the islands that “sustained the most damage,” according to the official release issued by McPhee.

“(They need) everything, because they’ve lost everything,” he said.

McPhee also announced that he lost his niece to the hurricane.

“She was in her home up in the attic. The water came up to that level, she moved and tried to get out, and climbed up a tree next to the home, and a friend who was with her went back to get someone else and when he came back she was gone,” McPhee said. “They have located her body.”

 

The loss, however, seems to have only emboldened McPhee’s efforts.

“We have a number of students whose families have been affected by this, and we have made contact with every single student’s families in the Bahamas,” McPhee said proudly. “We have a list, and we have pretty much purchased all of their needs right now, and we’re boxing it up and we’ll be flying on Sunday to deliver it to those families.”

Monetary donations are now being accepted to help provide items like small generators, clothing and hygiene items, and storable food and water, as well as the specified lists from each family.

When asked what one thing McPhee wished to explain to students, it was that this situation could happen to anyone.

“I think it would be having compassion and empathy- and I’m using these words very carefully. Not sympathy, but empathy– and realizing that a natural disaster can happen anywhere at anytime, and if they are ever in a position to help their fellow student, that they need to do it at whatever level they can. And then certainly appreciating the goodness of people.”

In addition, McPhee stated that “As we get information on their more tangible needs, if (an MTSU) department or organization would like to adopt a family, we will provide you with a list of the items they need to sustain themselves during this challenging period.”

Donations can be made to the Raider Relief program through the secure website www.mtsu.edu/supportraiderrelief, by texting raiderrelief to 41444 or by contacting the MTSU Development Office at 615-898-5818 for additional information or opportunities to assist.

The storm continues to impact states along the east coast, and more impact on the MTSU community is expected.

McPhee’s full statement to the MTSU community can be read here:

To the members of the MTSU Community:

As the national news has reported, over the past couple of days Hurricane Dorian has wreaked havoc on the islands of the Bahamas. Damage to the archipelago has been extensive, with large portions of the Grand Bahama and Abaco Islands destroyed. The majority of the residents are without food, clothing, and shelter, and it is predicted that it may be weeks before basic services are restored.

While the events in the Bahamas may seem far away, for 51 of our students, this is a very real disaster. Seven our our 51 Bahamian students are from Freeport and Abaco, the islands that sustained the most devastation. In particular with communications with family and loved ones being severely limited and a broad lack of services; they and their families are facing major challenges in the coming months. With their needs and the needs of their families in mind, I am reinstituting our Raider Relief program and asking you to consider assisting some of our most needy students and their families. 

In the coming days we will be preparing a list of basic needs for these families. From small generators to clothing and basic hygiene needs, along with storable food and water, we want to provide some assistance to these Bahamian members of our Blue Raider family. To provide assistance, we have established an account with the MTSU Foundation and created a web site where you can donate to our Raider Relief efforts. And, as we get information on their more tangible needs, if your department or organization would like to adopt a family, we will provide you will a list of the items they need to sustain themselves during this challenging period. 

If you would like to make a donation to our Raider Relief efforts, you can make a gift using the secure website www.mtsu.edu/supportraiderrelief, by texting raiderrelief to 41444 or you may contact the MTSU Development Office at 615-898-5818 for additional information or opportunities to assist.

In our True Blue Pledge, we commit to being an engaged member of our community; serving as a giver when the need arises. I hope you will accept my invitation to help those members of our Blue Raider family that, while you may never meet them face to face, are in desperate need of a helping hand. In doing so, you are holding to the highest standards of our community, exemplifying what it means to be True Blue!

 Thank you for your consideration of this important request.

 Sidney McPhee
President

 

To contact Editor-in-Chief Angele Latham, email editor@mtsusidelines.com.

For more news, visit www.mtsusidelines.com, or follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines or on Twitter at @Sidelines_News

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