Harvey’s aftermath is a lesson in long-term support

By Editorial Board

Atefter its assault on Texas beginning Aug. 25, Hurricane Harvey left a lifetime’s worth of ruin in its wake. Fifty lives were swept away by the storm’s wrath, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott estimated the storm caused up to $180 billion in damages. With at least 100,000 homes affected by the storm, some families don’t know when, if ever, they will be able to return home. 

Young adults, like those who make up Columbia’s student body, genuinely care about those affected by Harvey and are more than willing to help in ways that are beneficial to Houston’s population. However, some are caught between selflessness and helplessness in the disaster’s aftermath. Though students want to help in these efforts at the magnitude celebrities can, their incomes are extremely limited. Regardless, there are numerous ways to show support, and students should push the institutions around them to help make this possible. 

Hectic class and work schedules can limit what students can do to help those in need, but Columbia could offer courses that give credit hours for helping with relief efforts in areas struck by natural disasters. Many students would jump at the chance to volunteer whether they were receiving credit or not, but providing this option to students can make it easier to schedule. In addition, lessons in fundraising or volunteering would provide the opportunity to tangibly help others while teaching important skills. 

A J-term course in which students learn about the long-term aftermath of natural disasters and use their six-week winter break to visit and assist affected areas could have a serious impact on people in need. This type of service for the greater good should be part of the Columbia educational experience.

Offering class credit in exchange for helping hands isn’t the only solution available. Service clubs organized and sponsored by the college that emphasize similar goals will get the attention of students who feel the need to respond to a tragedy. A simple push for emotional support—linking victims with pen pals or by connecting with other members of the student body whose lives or families have been affected—could spark action in Columbia’s community. 

Columbia can use its platform as an institution to help in the wake of disaster. Support should be more than fostering compassion in students who may not have considered the economic and emotional struggles that continue long after the initial crisis of a natural disaster. Many may already have the urge and means to help affected people but don’t know the first steps to take to provide aid. Turning away from individual-level aid and emphasizing larger group efforts empowers students to make a bigger impact with the people around them. In instances like these, there is power in numbers. 

The crisis of Harvey will continue, even after the rain ends and the flooding recedes. Years from now, there will still be rebuilding and mourning. The suffering caused by Harvey will remain long after, but the Columbia community can make efforts to relieve the pain both now and in the future.