Hurricane Maria: Help Puerto Rico Thrive Again
Puerto Rico, and many of the surrounding islands, was devastated by Hurricane Maria during the month of September. It will take many more months and, sadly, years to regain our stance. As we see many nonprofits or grassroots requesting funding, it’s hard to distinguish how to contribute resources and which group or person is legitimate.
We advocate helping the island as much as possible. However, we try to emphasize supporting grassroots initiatives–ensuring your deeds are going from you and directly to the people or places in need. This notion, instead of donating to a nonprofit, ensures you are mostly working with true volunteers instead of paying salaries.
Beyond donating monetarily, here are a few of our ideas on how to still contribute to the island:
- ADOPT A PUEBLO. The anxiety of getting gas for cars coupled with the stations lacking fuel has lessened in some areas. This is good. Now you can drive around and adopt a pueblo. There are 78 pueblos in Puerto Rico and each one has its own uniqueness regarding terrain, culture, and needs. Gather a group of friends and neighbors. Decide that you want to officially adopt a pueblo or two. Raise funds and purchase goods for the individuals who live there. Pre-bag or box them to make it easier to hand out once you are in town. Be prepared to park your car and possibly walk on uneven terrain. Many of the bridges have been wiped away, many roads have caved in.Have a game plan in advance (ie, how many houses you plan to visit in one day, how often can you return). Remember, people living in the countryside are dependent on the fellow residents at this moment and will be extremely thankful. Understand that giving and loving comes in many languages. If language is a barrier, don’t use this as an excuse not to help.
- TEMPORARY HOUSING. If you have extra space, offer it to someone in need. Remember many of the residents have no roofs and may be sleeping in hammocks on the beach or in tents.Sometimes people just need just a few days, a few weeks, or a few months of decent lodging to get their senses back and to regain a peace of mind. It’s important to remember, the damage from the hurricane is no one’s fault and it is beyond one’s socio-economic status. Sharing an additional space with your fellow resident will allow them an opportunity to visit vital places without having the lack of housing stress them.If you can offer something more for the longterm, it’d be ideal. There are plenty of first-responders also seeking housing. Most often, they just need a clean place to sleep as their days will be filled with delivering supplies and assisting the island in rebuilding. Decide how much space and how much time you are willing to share with a residents or first-responders. Set the ground rules up front. Stick with the agreement to ensure neither side is disappointed.
- PLANT TREES/CROPS. Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico’s crops. Many of the plants, trees, and shrubs may easily bounce back. However some of the fruiting trees may be in shock for a season and not produce fruit. However, due to much of the vegetation and shrubbery lost, more erosion, landslides, and floods will occur. Assist in the rebuilding of Puerto Rico’s various farms such as banana, plantain or coffee. Some of the help may be in the form of planting seedlings or even rebuilding mini greenhouses. Ask the farmers what are their needs when you first visit and offer to donate seedlings and your time for possible planting. Many of the seeds can be purchased online, but it’s important to know the exact type the farmer wants.If you are planting along the roadside with various grasses, will help lessen the landslides.
- VOLUNTEER TEAMS: You’ve decided to volunteer your time, but you don’t really know how. There are various unofficial teams already established on the island. Many of which are based on their career field (former military, teachers, healthcare, artists). But your volunteer work doesn’t have to be focused on your career field. After all, you have the same goal in the end–helping Puerto Rico thrive again. Put all of your socio-political agendas aside and pull together a group of people who will be as dedicated and motivated as you. Inspire each other to seek donated goods, sort them, and how to distribute them efficiently and effectively. As a starter, here are a few items we suggest you can request as donations. But don’t let your requests stop here as once you are in the countryside and meet the residents in need, they will let you know urgent needs:
- Bottled water
- Water filters
- Baby formula/baby food
- Canned/Dry food
- Mosquito repellant
- First Aid Kits
- Hygiene products
- Toilet paper/paper towels
- Portable cell phone chargers