University of Illinois GHHS chapter ships 30,000 meals to Ponce, Puerto Rico

Following the devastation by Hurricane María in Puerto Rico, a local Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS) chapter at Ponce Health Sciences University reached out to ask for assistance. Most relief and donation efforts were focused on the northern parts of the island, centered on San Juan. The southern shore where Ponce is based was hit hard but was not receiving the aid it needed.

Recognizing this natural disaster as both a humanitarian and medical crisis, the GHHS chapter at Ponce sought to draw on the GHHS network for support.

The GHHS chapter at the University of Illinois College of Medicine-Urbana Champaign heard the call. They organized a food-packaging project to ship much-needed food to Ponce Health Sciences University. In 4 hours, 177 volunteers prepared over 5,000 packages (each holding 6 servings) of rice and rice-soy casseroles. With the help of the Illinois chapter, Ponce representatives, and dedicated student Eduardo Lopez, the shipment arrived at the southern shore of Puerto Rico on December 22, 2017.

A wall of food packages sent from Illinois to Puerto Rico, from one GHHS chapter to another, symbolizes the strength of a shared dedication to humanitarian relief.

Each package contains 6 servings of rice and rice-soy casseroles, high-calorie foods that can be reliably transported and distributed.

Moved by this gesture of goodwill, Dr. Kenira Thompson, PhD, president of the research institute at Ponce Health Sciences, wrote in her thank you letter to GHHS, “Words cannot express how grateful we are for the support provided by you during these difficult times. You came to our aid with a generous donation, comforting messages, and support for our faculty, students, researchers, and ongoing activities.”

“This past year was one of great challenges for our institution, as well as the island of Puerto Rico,” Dr. Thompson wrote. “We suffered through the emotional, physical, and financial burden of Hurricane María, including the lack of power and limited communications for a prolonged period of time. Many of our students, staff, and faculty were directly affected, as were the urban and rural communities of south central Puerto Rico. Given the tremendous need, our institution became a leader in relief efforts almost immediately. To date, we have impacted over 6,000 fellow Puerto Ricans.”

Dr. Thompson encapsulated the driving spirit of humanistic work as she explained that, “As part of our commitment to serve, we are doing our best to help people rebuild physically and emotionally. As we continue to participate in relief efforts in south central Puerto Rico, as well as move forward with our scholastic and research activities, I cannot begin to thank you for your continued support.”

Medical students and staff at Ponce Health Sciences University in Puerto Rico hold a clinic to distribute resources to those in need.

Students and faculty from the University of Illinois College of Medicine GHHS Chapter prepare to package rice to be sent to Ponce Health Sciences University in Puerto Rico.

Clinic workers in Ponce Puerto Rico take stock to distribute their available resources to those in need.













The University of Illinois College of Medicine chapter was not the only GHHS group to run fund drives for Ponce. Ohio State’s local chapter and others worked hard to provide support as well. Ongoing aid for Puerto Rico is a communal effort. Your GHHS chapter can contribute, too! To learn more about the GHHS relief efforts in Ponce, Puerto Rico, please click here.

Watch this video to learn more about Ponce Health Sciences University Hurricane María Relief Efforts.


Jonah Levine


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