By: Rachel Yuan
Online Section Writer
In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and the impact of Hurricane Irma, disaster relief has been on the mind of UGA students. One student group in particular, the Black Male Leadership Society, made this the topic of their most recent meeting.
Vice President Nicholas Martin, a third year biology major, explained why this was an important issue to cover: “We came up with the idea of this meeting to inspire a spark in people to think about what their role is and how they can help those around them through the hurricane or just people around them in the community… people that just need to be picked up.”
The meeting started off with a presentation to fill members in about the current damage that both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma have had on the affected locations, and then segued into an open discussion about disaster relief in response to the hurricanes. Two major questions were broached: “How do we respond to disasters?” and “Who is morally obligated to respond?”
Each member was asked to share what they thought was the most effective way to help those that have been impacted by the hurricanes. The discussion produced many ideas that the group might use going forward, like donating money to relief organizations, holding drives for food and clothes, fundraising and providing shelters for people displaced by the hurricanes.
This also led into the issue of short-term relief versus long-term recovery and disaster prevention. While everyone agreed that relief is a necessary thing to focus on in the aftermath of a big disaster, group members brought up the problem of only focusing on temporary fixes, and forgetting about the long-term rebuilding of areas destroyed by natural disasters.
While there was a lot of agreement on tactics for disaster relief, there were differing views on the extent to which people are morally obligated to give. A main point of disagreement was whether the rich should be expected to step up and make big donations. Some argued that because they have the means, the wealthy should give more, while others thought that average people use the rich to excuse themselves from giving as much as they should.
In the end, group members determined that everyone can, and should, do their part to help. Individuals have varying degrees of power or resources, but what ultimately matters is that they contribute in some way. However small, individual contributions matter, and when added up, they can make a serious difference in the lives of people who have been affected by disaster. This sentiment was echoed by Martin, who emphasized that “there are plenty of situations that people can’t control, such as these natural disasters, and out of our humanity, out of our empathetic feelings that we should have as human beings, we should be trying to help them.”