16 Oct Hurricane Maria Relief Efforts Strike Close to Home
For those of us who have loved ones in Puerto Rico, the devastation isn’t just fodder for a news cycle. One of our employees, Jessica, has several family members living in Puerto Rico, and they are facing challenges that reflect the hardship millions of Puerto Ricans are experiencing.
We have collected food and money to send to Jessica’s family to help, and we encourage everyone to consider how they might aid those facing similar challenges. At the bottom of this page, you’ll see links to places accepting donations. To better understand what life is like for so many Puerto Ricans, here is what Jessica’s family has been going through.
Jessica’s sister has three children and lives in San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital. They have been without water and electricity since the hurricane hit the island. Stores have been closed, and it has been impossible for them to get food or anything else. Even if they do reach a store, there are no more items left by the time they get to the front of the line. Lizmarie and her family are trying to live off the last bit of food and water they have left.
A lack of cell phone service and a scarcity of Wi-Fi have also made communications difficult for the family. They struggle to find locations where they can contact family members to let them know their situation. Jessica was unable to reach any of her family for an entire week after the hurricane first struck Puerto Rico.
Another sister of Jessica’s has two children and also lives in San Juan. Her family is facing the same struggles as her sister- a lack of food, water and access to communication.
Jessica’s cousin has one child and lives in Bayamon. She, too, has no power or water, but she does have Wi-Fi service. She lost her job at a doors manufacturer and wholesale company because they cannot operate without electricity. She is being told that it may be many months before they get power.
All three families live in cement homes, so the structures were not badly affected by Hurricane Maria, but the hurricane has caused them to lose jobs and be left without electricity, food, water and phone service. The postal service just recently started working again, and they are finally able to receive help from other parts of the United States.
Stores in Puerto Rico are slowly re-opening but, with the loss of jobs, it is going to be difficult for anyone to afford the items needed for survival. Puerto Rico is a tropical island, and it is hot all year long. With no power, Puerto Ricans cannot operate fans and air conditioners, which presents another major problem. They are all experiencing long, intense, exhausting days – but they are surviving.
In the wake of Hurricane Maria’s devastating impact on Puerto Rico, news coverage of the crisis is remarkably different compared to similar catastrophes that have occurred on the U.S. mainland. Most of the headlines are dominated by political conversations about the responsibilities our government has toward Puerto Rico, or they center on the media coverage itself.
In other words, too much of the dialogue over Puerto Rico is abstract and too little attention is being paid to the very real and immediate suffering of Puerto Ricans. Around 80 percent of the island is without electricity. Of the 2 million people who need meals daily in Puerto Rico, only 200,000 are currently being fed.
Puerto Rico is experiencing a catastrophe, and our response should reflect the magnitude of that disaster. What began as a natural disaster has quickly turned into a humanitarian crisis. Puerto Ricans need the help of their fellow Americans. Helping them overcome these challenges requires a commitment from the U.S. government to provide any and all resources they need. It also requires individuals to contribute what they can to help Puerto Ricans meet the challenges they are facing.
If you are interested in what you can do to help residents of Puerto Rico, PBS provided the following links on their website:
- United for Puerto Rico (spearheaded by the First Lady of Puerto Rico)
- Center for Popular Democracy
- Hispanic Federation’s “Unidos” page
- International Medical Corps
- Former U.S. presidents have expanded their One America Appeal to include recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands
- Catholic Relief Services
- Direct Relief
- Save the Children, which focuses specifically on the needs of families and their children
- Global Giving has a $2 million goal for victims of Hurricane Maria.