Hurricane Maria Hits Close to Home

Students Launch Fundraiser for Staff Member

October 26, 2017
SHS OT students launched a fundraiser to help a staff member affected by Hurricane Maria.

In her almost twenty years as an administrative assistant in the School of Health Sciences-Manhattan Occupational Therapy program, Lydia Borges has done her fair share for students in need of help. And when her Puerto Rican family needed help after Hurricane Maria, OT students rushed to offer assistance.

“We knew the hurricane was going to be a bad one, but we didn’t expect how bad it would be,” explained Borges. “It happened very close to where my parents live.”

Borges was not able to reach her parents for a week after the hurricane.

Elizabeth Chiariello, associate director of the Occupational Therapy program in SHS, saw Borges’s distress.

“She’s been with us a long time,” recalled Dr. Chiariello. “She’s a very caring person. At first, I felt powerless to do anything and then I realized that what she probably needed was money to help out her family.”

Dr. Chiariello reached out to third-year student and recipient of SHS’s Maimonides Award, Tamar Youseflaleh.

Youseflaleh, who also attended Lander College of Arts and Sciences in Flatbush, immediately launched a fundraiser on

“Lydia is always so nice to everyone,” stated Youseflaleh. “She always makes us feel heard and we can see how hard she works on making sure things run smoothly for us. We wanted her to know how much she means to us.”

“There’s a sense of community in the school and we work actively to strengthen that,” said Dr. Chiariello. “I think Lydia, in particular, has a special relationship with our students.”

Youseflaleh set a goal of $850. The money was initially planned to be used to fly Borges’s mother to New York. Within a few days the goal was met and exceeded for a total of $1445.

“Lydia, I am thinking of you and your family,” wrote recent OT graduate Gabrielle Levy. “Wishing them all the light and love that is so needed right now.”

Borges got in touch with her family after phone communication was partly restored on the island. Thankfully, her family and in-laws were unhurt, though their house suffered damage and they were without drinking water. Borges realized that the money would be better spent in buying supplies for the family and her husband will be travelling to the island shortly with items like batteries and generators. Any left-over money will be used to help the family rebuild.

“It was very touching,” said Borges. “I feel very loved. I really care about the students. They’re the key to our program. You have to love them.”