January 22, 2019 | ° F

Rutgers Salsa Club turns their annual fall social into a benefit for Puerto Rico

The 'Hope After Maria' fundraiser gave students a chance to donate, dance and enjoy live music

Photo by Jeffrey Gomez |

The president of the Rutgers Salsa Club has family living in Puerto Rico and was inspired to change the organization’s fall social into a fundraiser for hurricane relief in the disaster area. The club’s benefit included live music, dancing and more.

The Rutgers Salsa Club fundraised for hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico in the way they know best — through dance.

Last Wednesday, the club hosted “Hope After Maria," a block party that featured a night filled with dancing from 7 to 11 p.m. on Morrell street, right next to the College Avenue Student Center. Students stopped by to enjoy the music, and donate — all the proceeds went directly to Puerto Rico.

Janisha Rodriguez, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and president of the club, shared the inspiration behind the event.

“Two weeks ago, Puerto Rico was hit by Hurricane Maria. We decided as an e-board to turn it into a fundraising in order to donate funds for Maria," she said. "I’m personally connected to the cause, I’m an out-of-state student from Puerto Rico and my family’s over there. It really impacted me a lot. I’ve only recently been able to communicate with them through phone calls.”

The club originally planned a fall themed social, but Rodriguez said that as soon as she heard about the devastation in her home country, she approached her executive board and told them she wanted to get involved with fundraising. 

She said that the rest of the executive board members were immediately receptive to her idea and helped to turn the fall social into a benefit event. 

The club has partnered with ConPRmetidos, a non-governmental organization in Puerto Rico, she said. 

ConPRmetidos’ website states that Hurricane Maria is Puerto Rico’s largest natural disaster in one century. 

The organization commits itself to fostering the personal, social and economic development of the island, according to the website.

“We went with them because we really wanted to focus on a non-political NGO that is going to assess the needs of the islands immediately and also look for long-term solutions for the infrastructure of the island,” Rodriguez said. “They assess needs currently like distributing water and food and making sure things are distributed appropriately and not just those that have the most access to get to the resources."

She also said that they are also working on providing generators to bigger facilities so people can restart their businesses. They have long-term goals of finding alternate power solutions such as solar paneling, rather than temporary fixes. 

There was no monetary goal for the night because anything helps, she said. The event is about raising money to donate to the NGO to find fast solutions that the island needs right now. 

“We also want to raise awareness on campus so people know what’s going on in Puerto Rico, but also so they can have a good time and celebrate Puerto Rican culture,” she said.

Emma Florentine, a School of Engineering junior and member of the club, said that the event was an opportunity to dance, have fun and donate to the cause. 

In addition to donating and learning salsa, students at the event had the opportunity to write a card to healthcare workers on the island. The club stated that the cards will be flown to Puerto Rico and distributed by the Nursing Association of the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico.

The Salsa Club also collaborated with the Bachata Club on campus to attract even more people. The Bachata Club performed a dance, as students passing by gathered around and filmed them. Rodriguez said that at the last minute, she asked her friend on the e-board of the Bachata Club if they would unite and collaborate with them to support the cause, and they immediately agreed on joining forces.

“It’s an incredible turnout ... and that’s what I love about Rutgers, everyone (is) always ready to help and collaborate,” Rodriguez said.

Erica D'Costa

Erica D'Costa is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies and minoring in business administration and political science. She is an Associate News Editor @The Daily Targum. 

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