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Notre Dame and Michigan team up to give voice to Puerto Rican hurricane victims

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Notre Dame and Michigan may be football rivals, but off the field, the universities are teaming up to give voice to the people of Puerto Rico.

The schools have come together to offer a free online course that's open to everyone -- you don't have to be a student to take it.

It's called "Listening to Puerto Rico." In a series of interviews, you can learn about the impact of Hurricane Maria.

Marisel Moreno and Thomas Anderson knew they wanted to tell the stories about the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria as well as the recovery.

They visited the island in June and conducted more than 30 interviews with people from all walks of life.

“One of the things that we heard over and over as we were interviewing people was that they wished that people making decisions would just come to the people, and actually go to the communities and talk to those that are most affected,” said Moreno, an associate professor of Latin American Literature.

What they found was that there is still an incredible need, nearly a year after the hurricane.

“Many of them still don’t have a roof over their head,” said Moreno. “Some people don’t have houses, some people don’t have fridges. Many people lost everything.”

Anderson says despite all the pain and suffering, the people of Puerto Rico are strong.

“People really have this resilient fighting spirit, if we don’t get the help from this or that organization we’ll do it ourselves, or it may take decades but we’re going to rebuild,” said Anderson, chairman of the Department of Romance Languages and Literature.

This week, a new study revealed a new and increased death toll: nearly 3,000 American citizens died as a result of Hurricane Maria, 1,000 more than Hurricane Katrina.

Anderson says more could have been done by both the U.S. and Puerto Rican governments.

“I think this actually underscores in many ways,” said Anderson. ”I think it will come out in the news in the near future, kind of the colonial status of Puerto Rico and the fact that Puerto Ricans are still treated like second-class citizens, despite the fact that they’ve been citizens of the united states since 1917.”

Politics aside, Moreno and Anderson hope this project increases awareness and inspires people to take action.

On September 12th, Notre Dame students from Puerto Rico will take part in a live-streamed discussion on the impact of Hurricane Maria on them and their families.

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