Over the last week, more than 2,000 Rice students, faculty and staff signed up to help rebuild the city we all call home through the Rice Harvey Action Team collaborative. They have volunteered nearly 8,000 hours, waking up before the sun rises and working long after it goes down. The Rice community’s sense of civic duty has been inspiring to everyone; however, we can and should ask more of each other.
For many families it will be months before many areas are operational. Rice’s campus might have sustained little damage during the storm, but a 10-minute drive paints an entirely different picture. Across southeast Texas, thousands of families have lost everything — cars, homes, schools and the hope that binds their communities.
While we return to the normalcy of classes, kids taking refuge at the NRG don’t know where they’ll be going to school on Monday. After all is said and done, Hurricane Harvey will be one of the costliest natural disasters in history. Rebuilding will take years, and Rice’s community of students and leaders is uniquely positioned to be part of the recovery.
Everyone has done an incredible job stepping up to serve in the last few days, but this isn’t a congratulations — it’s a call to continued action. Through collaboration with existing service clubs, campus opportunities and connections, the Rice community will be a resource to all of Houston in the months and years ahead.
As students, most of our waking hours are dedicated to tomorrow. If we work hard today, acquiring the knowledge and learning the skills we need, we’ll be able to improve the world in the years to come. However, times of great need mandate that our focus be on making the world a little bit brighter for someone else today. Those kids without a home, without knowledge of their school or future or even the safety of their family members need us to be the leaders we plan to be in the future, today.
It’s easy to become preoccupied with immediate tasks and personal goals, but having a broader perspective on the surrounding city and region is important. Our ability to apply knowledge successfully beyond the hedges hinges on our ability to show compassion and to work in service to others even when we do not benefit directly. We are here at Rice not just to become great engineers, doctors or political scientists, but to become leaders who work for the betterment of the world. Being a leader tomorrow requires that we act today.
Social media is not enough, solidarity is not enough, staying inside the hedges is not enough. Don’t look to others to provide the help Houston needs. It can’t just be the mayor or the nonprofits or the construction workers helping rebuild this city.
Take ownership of your home; many of us grew up here and others will be here for only our four years at Rice. The length of your stay doesn’t matter — in this moment, you are a Houstonian. The volunteer needs will continue beyond news reports of the disaster, beyond our immediate memory of “the week we didn’t have school,” and beyond tasks that can be immediately related to hurricane relief.
To all the teams who stayed on campus for the duration of Harvey, thank you. To all the students, faculty and staff who gave up their free days to serve, you’ve inspired us. During Harvey, we came together as a community because we recognized that as Rice Owls we had to be there for one another. From the H&D staff to the multitude of clubs working to keep students busy and upbeat during tough times, we were there for each other.
It’s often hard to pinpoint exactly what it means to be a Rice Owl, but over the last week it’s been clear. Being a Rice Owl means giving back, stepping up, and looking forward. We need to finish what we started, let’s carry over our sense of communal responsibility and culture of care into Houston for as long as it takes to rebuild our home.