Alexis Wyman-LaBelle Staff Reporter
Students Jessica Doyon and Katie Franke working at the bake sale to earn money for the Puerto Rico trip in March. (Photo courtesy of Alexis Wyman-Labelle)
The Intervarsity fellowship is preparing to go to Puerto Rico to help rebuild after the destruction after Hurricane Maria. The hurricane left the island without power and with an estimate over $8 million in damage.
Intervarsity is a Christian fellowship on campus that partnered with ServeUp, a national organization that sets up missions trips, to make this trip happen. 20 students plan on attending this trip to Puerto Rico during spring break. Each of the attendees needs approximately $800 to attend. The plane tickets have been purchased by Intervarsity already so the students are hard at work trying to make enough money.
Emily Murphy, a junior, is a participant who’s been actively involved with planning the trip is excited to attend. Murphy has been taking trips like these since her Freshman year, when a trip to New Orleans was offered.
The goals of the trips taken are often to rebuild communities that have been destroyed by natural disasters. Intervarsity has never traveled to Puerto Rico before. Prior to this, they’ve traveled to New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Murphy says these trips are the best weeks of her life.
“Doing something meaningful for other people,” Murphy exclaimed, “is a great way to spend spring break.”
The trip is currently being funded by the students who are participating. Funding opportunities such as a bake sale and bottle drive have been executed. The members and participants of the trip have also discussed holding a community dinner to help with the overall cost.
Another attendee, Jessica Doyon, a junior, is an Intervarsity member who is attending the trip, thinks this will be a meaningful experience. “The goal is to take what we hear from the news and experience it ourselves,” Doyon said. Doyon is also excited about meeting new people, and forming new relationships with other students.
Doyon is an education major who is currently focusing on age groups birth to 5-years-old and kindergarten to third grade.
“This trip will be a great way to connect,” Doyon said. “It’s a great way for people you see everyday to get closer with them. I can’t wait to spend my time helping people.”
During the week the students are down there, the opportunity to interact with the community is available to them. They are able to play with the local children which will be especially fun for Doyon and Shaoning Gu.
Shaoning Gu, an exchange student from Shijiazhuang, China is also attending the trip.
“I know there are many homeless people there, I am hoping to build houses and play with the kids,” Gu said in an online interview. Gu is hoping to bring awareness of the people in Puerto Rico who need prayers and care to UMF. Gu is hoping by going on this trip, she’ll make friends and understand Christianity.
The goal of the trip is to take what the students have heard in the news about the devastating hurricane and bring the experience back to Farmington, and how they can use it to benefit themselves and others. Students will learn about the different community style in Puerto Rico and how it differs from the United States.
By Emily Mokler Editor-in-Chief
In response to the Jan. 28 Bangor Daily News (BDN) article about the experiences of two UMF students after reporting that they had been sexually assaulted, a coalition called Look Us in the Eyes (LUITE) has become an independent movement advocating for “changes with the way the university responds to sexual assault, provide education and work with a wide group of students who feel passionate about sexual assault prevention and Title IX rights,” according to Claudia Intama, an administrator for the Facebook group.
In the time since the article’s publication, the group has grown to over 260 members, including UMS students, alumni, and faculty.
Amy Fortier-Brown, a senior political science major, created the group within hours of the release of the BDN article. “I created this group because the BDN article made me feel betrayed by the University. I am not the type to sit and writhe in anger; I instead prefer to use that energy to change the situation. Thus, I decided I wanted to have a protest on campus to bring attention to this issue,” Fortier-Brown said in an email interview.
LUITE is holding a peaceful protest in a common area on the UMF campus on February 15 at noon “to address the way that the University of Maine System handles sexual assault cases,” according to their Facebook page.
“I obviously would like to create positive change on UMF’s campus to address sexual assault issues with a holistic approach. This includes improvements at all levels- students, faculty, and administration,” Fortier-Brown said.
On February 6, one of the first steps of discussing sexual assault on campus since the BDN article was published was a panel hosted by the Campus Violence Prevention Coalition (CVPC) called “Campus Conversations Part One.” At this event, five panelists with various backgrounds came together to answer student questions. Intama, who is also the President of CVPC, worked as a moderator of the event.
While LUITE is an independent student group, “CVPC is a university sanctioned group of students, faculty and staff that have the same goals in mind,” according to Intama.
Intama acknowledges the role that the article has played in the increase of discussion about sexual assault on campus. “It really was the BDN article that sparked discussion and action here at UMF. I am thankful for all the survivors who have been brave to tell their stories, and am glad to see the UMF community rally together to think of ways to increase knowledge, education and training around sexual assault and harassment,” Intama said. “Although the article painted UMF in a not-so-favorable light, the changes that are being talked about now are helpful and positive.”
There is a bittersweet quality to the student response. “I love that people are involved and excited about this issue, but I am sad that we have to have this conversation. We have been failed,” said Fortier-Brown.
Intama said that sexual assault “is a national issue, but our community is driven to make sure our university is safe and provides a supporting environment for all who attend here.”
Fortier-Brown said that she “absolutely believe[s] that there are people here who are pioneers for change and want to ensure that UMF is safe and is living up to our high (and justified) standards. I have no doubt that admin[istration] is working with us to change.”
Fortier-Brown also said that “if [administration] ever become[s] complacent, we are also here to push them to keep going and support them when needed. Overall, it is striking how well we- LUITE, Staff, and Admin- are working together.”
Fortier-Brown said, “This is our #MeToo movement. Maine is late to everything.”
A screening and subsequent discussion of the documentary “The Hunting Ground” was initially scheduled for January 30, but was changed to February 13.
Students interested in being involved with CVPC may contact Claudia Intama or Jordan Shaw. Students interested in joining LUITE may contact Amy Fortier-Brown at email@example.com