Vineland students organize fundraiser to help Puerto Rico earthquake victims

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A group of Cumberland County high school students say that they are on a mission to help earthquake-ravaged Puerto Rico. It is a mission that hits home for some of the students who have family on the island.

“Luckily my family members weren’t hurt and I was able to make contact with them,” says Vineland High School senior Rafael Lausell.

Puerto Rico has been hit by a series of earthquakes and tremors, badly damaging much of the island which still hasn’t fully recovered from Hurricane Maria in 2017.

“Most places are actually beyond repair and its very, very sad to see such a beautiful island, where I was actually born, fallen on such hard times,” says Lausell.

Lausell says that he knew that he wanted to do something to help, so he and his classmates, along with their science teacher, launched a T-shirt fundraiser. The black and white shirts say, “Their strength and unity” on the front, and “Vineland is one with Puerto Rico” on the back.

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"The black and white colors represent the state of mourning. That we are mourning all of the loss and devastation that has hit the island of Puerto Rico,” says teacher Stacey DeRose.

The shirts cost $15, with $7.50 from each sale going to Rotary Club International, which will be in charge of distributing funds to the earthquake victims on the island.

“Even though we can’t be there physically, we can be there financially,” says Lausell. “We could be there to help support them.”

The response from the community has been great, with more than 200 orders since last week.

“My heart is so full of pride and love … I have some amazing students, but these three have definitely taken it on themselves to make sure that this is a success and we raise as much as we can for the residents of Puerto Rico,” says DeRose.

The school says that shirts have been ordered from as far away as Texas. They are in the process of creating more designs and options.

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