IIE's Emergency Student Fund Helps Support Students Affected by Hurricanes Maria and Irma

Woman sitting next to fountain of water

"I wanted to take my rent money and go home, but there was nothing to go home to."

When Macy Riviere arrived on campus as a freshman at Midwestern State University (MSU), in Wichita Falls, Texas in the fall of 2017, she had clear goals in mind. She would pursue a pre-med track and return to her native Dominica to complete a medical degree. “It was a great opportunity to get out of the Caribbean and go abroad,” Riviere says of her decision to obtain an undergraduate degree in the United States.

Riviere never could have guessed that Hurricane Maria would change all her plans in a few short days. The hurricane tore through Dominica just two weeks into Riviere’s first semester, destroying or damaging more than 90 percent of the buildings on the island. Hurricane Maria tore the roof off Riviere’s family home in the countryside, and destroyed the medical school on the island that Riviere hoped to one day attend. Communication to and from the island was cut off for weeks. As she waited to hear from family members, Riviere worried about their safety.

“I wanted to take my rent money and go home, but there was nothing to go home to,” Riviere says. “It’s been getting better, but I was almost devastated.”

As she waited to hear from family and friends, Riviere was also fast running short on funds. Bank payments were delayed due to the hurricane. The international student advisor at MSU stepped in, ensuring that Riviere and other students impacted by the hurricane had access to the school cafeteria. He also helped negotiate a deal with Riviere’s landlord that allowed her to delay her rent payment for a month while she waited for bank transactions to be functional again.

In the meantime, the advisor put her up for an IIE Emergency Student Fund (ESF) grant. ESF grants go to international students studying in the United State whose studies are threatened by natural disasters and conflict in their home countries. Past grant cycles have aided students impacted by the earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal, among other catastrophic disasters, helping them stay in school and complete their degrees.

Without the ESF grant, Riviere may have had to drop out of school just weeks into her first semester, due to a delay in funds. “It has been really helpful,” Riviere says of the grant. “I’m really thankful that option was there.” While Dominica’s future is still unclear as the island begins to rebuild, one thing is certain – Riviere can continue her studies.


Building on a Freeman Foundation designation of $2.5 million for emergencies involving students from East and Southeast Asia studying in the United States, IIE is issuing a request to donors around the world to support ESF for other world areas. Since 2010, IIE has awarded more than 800 emergency grants to students from Haiti, Iran, Japan, Libya, Nepal, the Philippines, Syria, Thailand, and Yemen, whose home sources of financial support were impacted by crisis or natural disaster, providing over $2 million in financial aid in total.

The Institute seeks to have a fund in place so that IIE can respond quickly to help students when disasters and emergencies arise. To support IIE's Emergency Student Fund, please make a donation now and designate your gift by entering "ESF" in the gift designation field.