Student Association sets up help for fire victims

Fire. Photo Courtesy of Jenica Barett

Southern Adventist University’s Student Association (SA) is helping raise funds for three Southern students who were victims of a residential fire last month about five minutes away from Andrews University’s campus. 

This Wednesday, SA released a student-produced video raising awareness and encouraging students to support Jenica Barrett, who lost her apartment and belongings in the fire, along with Sharlyn Rumambi and Sakari Tallmadge, who were using Barrett’s residence to store personal items. The video was posted on multiple social media platforms with captions that include links to donate to those affected by the fires.

The three students, though currently at Andrews, are part of Southern’s medical lab science program, which requires students to complete their last year of studies at Andrews University. Despite finishing at Andrews, they are still considered Southern students and will graduate with a Southern diploma. 

According to Barrett, the fire occurred on Aug. 24, the Saturday night before classes kicked off for the semester. She says the fire began around 9 p.m. due to an unattended stove. At the time, she was at her family’s home for the weekend. So, she did not find out about the fire until 10:57 p.m. when an Andrews dean called to inform her about an apartment building that had caught fire.

Barrett stated that when she received the call, hope was the only thing she had.

“It was like shock…I was kind of clinging onto the hope that they would stop it before it hit my apartment…but as time went on, I kind of realized there’s probably not going to be much left,” Barrett said. “My brother and I [showed up] to look at the damage…That hit me pretty hard.”

Sharlyn Rumambi, who was just storing personal belongings at Barrett’s place, explained that because she did not live at the apartment, she did not find out until around 11:00 p.m. when she received a call from Barrett. 

Rumambi explained that the first night was the most overwhelming as she made a seemingly never-ending mental list of items that she had lost in the fire and stressed about how she would recover everything, along with the stress of school starting that week.

As an international student, Rumambi lost quite literally all her belongings, but now that it has settled in, she explains how the loss has been more emotional than material.

“I kept like a lot of sentimental things throughout the years because I don’t live in the States. So I don’t really have anything at home,” Rumambi said. “All the pictures I’ve had throughout the years of like different places I’ve lived and like all those little things…all my clothes and stuff, yeah I can replace that, but I can’t replace the pictures and memories that I kept.” 

Both Barrett and Rumambi claim that the Andrews community has been very supportive in response to the event. According to Barrett, Andrews made sure that displaced victims had a place to stay for at least a week while they figured out new housing plans. Barrett also said that one former Southern professor offered a place to stay while Rumambi added that some professors and alumni got together to help the students repurchase their lost books.

When asked about Southern’s efforts to raise funds, both Barrett and Rumambi expressed thankfulness. Barrett said that she was not expecting the news to get to Southern since they refrained from posting about it on social media. 

“I really didn’t expect Southern to like reach out, but I’m so glad they did because that made me feel like I’m still a Southern student and they still care about me even though I’m so far away,” Rumambi said. 

SA President, Mark Galvez is in charge of executing the fundraising. He said that as president, it is his duty to make sure that all students, no matter how far, understand that SA is there to do more than just represent them.

“If anything happens to [anyone], they have an organization that supports them, and that is Student Association here on campus,” Galvez said.

SA will be selling the 2019 Student Association t-shirts at the 423 Night Market on Oct. 5 and all profits will be donated towards the affected Southern students.. 

Sakari Tallmadge was not available for comment.

Anyone who is interested in donating to those affected can find links to the donation pages on the Student Association’s social media.

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