CSI’s Social Work Department Bands Together With Backpacks

A Drive for the Children of Houston Since Hurricane Harvey

By: Lucia Rossi

In a time of crisis, climate change and natural disasters, it is college campuses like ours that can make a difference for those who have been forced to evacuate and abandon their homes.

With Houston, Texas recovering from the devastating flood damage, there are many different populations of people who are now vulnerable and in need of assistance in an attempt to get back some feeling of normalcy.

The CSI Social Work Department as social justice warriors and advocates for change and relief, knew this was the perfect opportunity to take action.

Sending money would be easy, but there is always a risk of it being unfairly or improperly distributed. In light of that, Shannon Foreshee and Amina Perez, the student representatives of the MSW and BSSW program put together a backpack drive in the department.

On a flyer emailed to students about the drive, it stated that there are children in Texas who are going to be out of school and have lost all of their belongings who could benefit from social and educational activities that may provide some comfort.

This includes simple things like backpacks filled with books, notebooks, pencils, pens, crayons, markers, coloring and activity books, travel games, stuffed animals, toys, a small ball, toiletries, that can keep them entertained and engaged.

Foreshee was inspired to make this drive a reality due to his past experiences, “In my own personal history, I have first-hand knowledge how devastating floods and hurricanes can be; I knew that I wanted to be a part of something to help and make a difference.”

This drive was not only encouraging and inspirational to students, but to staff as well.

Professor and Chairperson of the department, Dr. Christine Flynn Saulnier said, “I was proud to be associated with students who would take time out of their intensive social work academic schedules to organize this drive. They are enacting the segment of the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics principle of service, by volunteering their skills with no expectation of financial gain for themselves.”

Foreshee would agree with her statement because he said, “The social work profession is about assisting those in need when they are in require it the most. I figured the drive would be a great way to integrate the theories and skills we are learning into practice.”

Saulnier went on to say why it is imperative for students like those in the department and beyond to get involved. “It is important for professionals and pre-professionals to respond to the needs of the community and to demonstrate to those affected by this and other disasters that their suffering is witnessed, and that people care enough to respond to the obvious need.”

When asked why children and backpacks were chosen for the drive, Foreshee responded with, “Children are one of the most vulnerable populations. Many will now be out of school and not have a structured daily schedule, which can be a source of stress on top of them losing their homes and physical possessions. My hope is that the backpacks filled with items can be something that will allow them an opportunity to escape through a book, or play, which could provide them with some small amount of relief from their traumatic situation.”

Within just a week, 40 backpacks were collected and ready for donation. However, there was a bump along the way.

At first, it was planned that Congressman Dan Donovan’s office would come and pick up the donations to send out, but unfortunately, there was no reply to their initial email and when called, the office informed them that their items were already sent.

“Thankfully, Congressman Steven Matteo’s office was able to take our donations and add them to his own drive to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey,” said Foreshee.

Both Foreshee and Saulnier confirmed that no further drives will be done due to requirements for the programs and the size of the department, but they do hope the rest of the college will get involved now and in the future.

“The College of Staten Island is responsive to disasters. Like many people, we acknowledge human need in times of crisis and our instinct is to help. While I am proud to be a member of a department that engages in such compassionate and concrete work, I believe other departments will also respond in kind,” said Saulnier. “I hope that we will all remember that no disaster like this ends when the rain stops. People will need encouragement, support, and donations for some time to come.”

So far, CSI Student Government is also currently having a drive for relief for Hurricane Harvey, collecting diapers, toiletries and feminine products. If you are interested in donating, their drop off point is 1C-207.

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