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Jul 18, 2019

THANK YOU!

Reforestation efforts by Para la Naturaleza
Reforestation efforts by Para la Naturaleza

Dear donor, 

Red de Fundaciones de Puerto Rico (La Red) would like to thank you for your recurring contributions to the FORWARD Puerto Rico Fund through GlobalGiving. Since we established the Fund in 2017, donors like you have given us the ability to continue working towards a fair and equitable reconstruction of Puerto Rico in the midst of a double crisis: an ongoing economic depression and the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. 

How your donation helps Puerto Rico 

Your contribution helps us promote government transparency and accountability regarding the use of recovery funds to ensure they target the most vulnerable populations. It also helps us strengthen local nonprofit organizations that day after day face innumerable challenges to achieve this goal.

To date we have:  

  • Supported 24 local nonprofits in their emergency relief work, which included collecting and distributing provisions for basic needs; promoting safety and public health; repairing and rebuilding of houses; promoting energy autonomy and related equipment installations; supporting the country’s cultural resources; and reforestation and habitat restoration, among other actions. 100,000+ people received immediate assistance through these grants.  
  • Created a pioneering initiative to support the establishment of emergency reserve funds for 15 local nonprofits. Supporting the creation of reserve funds is part of La Red’s efforts to bolster fiscal stability of the island’s nonprofit sector. Extremely few groups have any sort of reserve funds for emergencies. After the hurricanes, the need for this kind of financial cushion became even more apparent.   
  • Supported 6 local nonprofits that are advocating for more extensive and equitable disaster recovery and fiscal crisis relief efforts. These investments are of significant size and multi-year to enhance their potential impact. They support investigative journalism that tracks and publicizes the distribution of federal disaster aid dollars; help communities understand how to access these funds; track the changes and impacts of childhood poverty; help understand barriers and develop policy recommendations to advance land security; and support research and advocacy efforts to inform the public debate on public education and the transformation of the island’s electrical system. More grants like these are currently in the works.

Other efforts undertaken by La Red 

La Red is the island’s first and only philanthropy serving organization (PSO). We bring together organizations that make grants in Puerto Rico for joint learning and action, including collaborative and aligned grant making. We also undertake research on issues relevant to philanthropy to better understand the impact of our collective effort and identify key areas to support. Finally, we advocate for the strengthening of the nonprofit sector in order to enhance its ability to improve the lives of vulnerable populations on the island by advancing equity and social and environmental justice.  

Again, we are grateful for your continued support. You may find more info on our work in our website or by contacting us through our email or social media platforms.

We’d love to hear from you!  

All the best, 

La Red's Team: Anja, Annette, Glenisse, María Cristina and Rebeca 

Solar-powered fridge installation by Casa Pueblo
Solar-powered fridge installation by Casa Pueblo
Civic capacity summit by Espacios Abiertos
Civic capacity summit by Espacios Abiertos
FFAJ presents report on land tenure
FFAJ presents report on land tenure

Links:

Jun 27, 2019

Field Update #26: Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico

Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico
Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico

Many people take for granted their right to have a home, a community, access to schools and hospitals. However, there are thousands of people who do not have that security because their ability to repair or rebuild their houses depends on the assistance they receive from the state, their rent is subject to private entities that can speculate with the land or if the public school closes, forcing the family to move so their children can have an education. Because the right to a roof is not just the house or the property, it is the human right to decent housing.

"A decent home is a home that is adequate, affordable and accessible for people with functional diversity, for example. We say that it's a dwelling with secure ownership, that is, nobody can take it away from you arbitrarily, but it also protects a social fabric. It's not just a house, it's part of a community," explains Ariadna Godreau-Aubert, executive director of Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico, a non-profit organization that advocates for social justice and changes to public policy surrounding issues such as decent housing. While they don't offer direct services, they work with collaborators, free legal service providers, and community-based organizations such as Taller Salud, Proyecto Matria and IDEBAJO.

In the months after Hurricane Maria, Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico visited more than 70 communities around the island, and in the process, they realized that Puerto Rico is experiencing a housing crisis. They've since focused their efforts on legal projects involving the right to a roof, among other social justice projects. 

"As lawyers and as social justice activists, we believe that if you defend the right to housing, you protect other fundamental rights," expressed Godreau-Aubert.

Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico received a grant from the Funder's Network through the FORWARD Puerto Rico Fund with the objective of developing a campaign supporting education, advocacy, and community legal assistance for vulnerable communities to secure government resources in order to conserve and rebuild homes damaged or destroyed by hurricanes Irma and María. The project, entitled Recuperación Justa (Fair Recovery), focuses on the issue of the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program (CDBG-DR), provided by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The interest of Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico is to avoid the forced displacement of vulnerable communities through the misuse of these funds.

"CDBG-DR funds have more to do with long-term reoccupation, and as the government has said, approximately $20 billion is expected for Puerto Rico and if this money is used well, it could be the only injection of capital that these communities will see for many years for economic rehabilitation, infrastructure, and housing," affirmed Godreau-Aubert.

"If they are misused, it'll be like New Orleans, it'll serve as a pretext to remove people, to speculate on the ground, and money will never get where it's needed," she warns. 

Recuperación Justa seeks to encourage the participation of the very people who would be affected by this process and the organizations that defend them by influencing public policy, defending the right to decent housing, and ensuring that recovery plans respond to the real needs of the people.

This comes in response to the discrimination experienced by certain communities, such as when FEMA demanded property titles as a condition for granting rebuilding funds when federal and local laws do not require that, something that harmed low-income communities where residences have been passed down generation after generation and the original titles don't exist. Additionally, the possible displacement or expropriation of the homes of people living in low-income communities can only be addressed through changes to public policy and awareness of the measures taken by the government that harm the most vulnerable while benefiting private interests. Both examples are evident in the Action Plan designed by HUD that establishes how CDBG-DR funds will be used to address the humanitarian crisis and reconstruction after the hurricanes.

"For example, right now there is a prohibition in the Action Plan that establishes that properties that are in floodable zones or areas susceptible to landslides will not qualify to be repaired or reconstructed. The new maps establish that more than 40% of the surface of Puerto Rico is either floodable or susceptible to landslides, so it would prevent people who need the money to repair or rebuild, presumably poor people who have not been able to repair or rebuild two years after the hurricane, but could allow private money, through 'opportunity zones,' to build in those same areas. You'll have coastal communities that are going to be displaced because they will not be able to repair their houses, but a hotel can build in the same area," points out Godreau-Aubert.

Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico's job is to empower communities and community-based organizations by providing them with information about their rights and the legal alternatives they can use to protect their property. This includes a legal toolkit available on the Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico website that contains a glossary of terms, summaries of plans, key concepts, and other types of free educational material written in an accessible and inclusive language. Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico also facilitates the Jornada de Participación Comunitaria CDBG-DR, a coalition of entities working for social justice in Puerto Rico, which has given communities greater access to the process of allocation of CDBG-DR funds, such as extending the hours of public hearings so that people with jobs or who live outside the metro area can attend. Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico has also been very active in the press exposing their findings.

"Part of the work we have been doing is to be very open about this process to demand that the government respond and be influenced by the people who really need it," she adds.

The FORWARD Puerto Rico Fund supports innovative approaches to help Puerto Rico prosper.  Puerto Rico’s recovery and rebuilding is a long-term effort. Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated an island that was already reeling from a longstanding economic crisis. Quicklyafter the hurricanes, the Fund provided emergency funds to vetted, high impact local grassroots organizations that were offering immediate assistance to those affected. Now, the Fund is pursuing essential long-term strategic priorities to help move Puerto Rico forward.  This report describes the work that is being done by one of the organizations supported through the Fund.

Tania Morales
Tania Morales
ALPR advocates for social justice.
ALPR advocates for social justice.

Links:

Apr 3, 2019

Field Update #25: Emergency Savings Fund is key to nonprofit sustainability

Taller Salud received a donation from la RED.
Taller Salud received a donation from la RED.

In the months following Hurricane Maria, the Funders' Network of Puerto Rico activated its FORWARD Puerto Rico Fund, awarding grants to community- based organizations that were helping the most vulnerable populations of the island. Now that the emergency has stabilized and Puerto Rico is in a recovery and rebuilding stage, grants have focused on the long-term. That includes strengthening the financial stability of community-based organizations, which enables them to quickly respond to future emergencies.

Before the Category 5 winds of Hurricane Maria even reached the coast of Puerto Rico, the island was already years deep in another crisis. Its financial troubles generated a $73 billion government debt that was being felt by many private citizens, sparking a mass migration to mainland United States. The nonprofit sector of Puerto Rico also found itself struggling, with many organizations living proposal to proposal, grant to grant, their staff sometimes going weeks or even months without a paycheck.

La Red recently invested over $1 million of its the FORWARD Puerto Rico Fund in 15 organizations to create reserve funds as a “rainy day" savings to be used in case of future emergencies.  Depending on the size and budget of each organization, they received up to $100,000.

Many of those organizations were precisely the ones that stepped up during and after the hurricane to feed and provide basic necessity items to thousands of people, bring solar energy and water purification systems to forgotten parts of the island, and preserve the island's patrimony and natural resources in the face of unprecedented challenges. Some had emergency revenue or enough savings for a month or so of regular operations. While others already faced challenges obtaining funding long before the storm.

"The idea is to give them a financial cushion in case of future emergencies so that they can continue operating," explains Janice Petrovich, the former executive director of the Funders' Network of Puerto Rico. “These organizations went above and beyond during and after the hurricane, and this is a way to help them look to their future and support their sustainability," expresses Petrovich.

Grants for reserve funds are unusual, even though nonprofit groups often note their importance.  “We listened to what they were telling us. Their ability to respond quickly to an emergency depends on having a pool of funds that they can tap into,” she adds. "This initiative is quite unusual in the world of philanthropy, even though it is so important to the financial health and resilience of nonprofit groups.”  

In order to be able to use the emergency savings fund, the organization must have a way to replenish the fund within a reasonable amount of time. For example, they could be waiting for the disbursement of an approved grant or contract. If approved funds take longer than anticipated to be disbursed, the organization may draw from the emergency savings in order to have cash flow. Once the funds arrive, the emergency savings get replenished. In an emergency scenario like the one faced during and after Maria, other donations would be assumed to be coming in which could restore the emergency funds. 

For organizations such as Beta-Local, a non-profit that supports Puerto Rican cultural agents and independent artists, setting up an emergency fund had not been possible because funding for arts programs is typically geared towards specific projects, leaving them very little flexible funding to support their operational budget, let alone a savings account. 

Anahi Lazarte, Beta-Local's administrator explained: “An emergency reserve will allow us in times of crisis to continue our mission of supporting the local independent arts scene. We're thinking about the future, specially how we can continue to grow that reserve fund. It's a relief and gives us confidence that if another emergency were to come up then we know those funds are available to us," says Lazarte.

Taller Salud is a community-based feminist organization that has spent 40 years improving women's access to healthcare, reducing violence, and advancing the economic development of women through education and activism. "At Taller Salud we believe that when women prosper their communities become stronger and the country gains competence. We believe that the best way to support women is by investing in them and their leadership; but not any kind of leadership, a sustainable one, which ensures its future management by making prudent use of its present resources," expressed executive director Tania Rosario.

With access to emergency funding, Taller Salud now has a safety net with which it can confidently continue providing services and developing projects to help the women of the town of Loíza, where the organization is based, and their communities.

"It means the possibility of guaranteeing the continuity of our services in the event of an emergency. It also means continuing to build sustainable leadership for Puerto Rico," added Rosario.

 

The FORWARD Puerto Rico Fund supports innovative approaches to help Puerto Rico prosper.  Puerto Rico’s recovery and rebuilding is a long-term effort. Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated an island that was already reeling from a longstanding economic crisis. Quickly after the hurricanes, the Fund provided emergency funds to vetted, high impact local grassroots organizations that were offering immediate assistance to those affected. Now, the Fund is pursuing essential long-term strategic priorities to help move Puerto Rico forward.  This report describes the work that is being done by one of the organizations supported through the Fund.

 

Taller Salud is a community-based organization.
Taller Salud is a community-based organization.
Beta-Local supports cultural agents.
Beta-Local supports cultural agents.
Beta-Local received a donation from la RED.
Beta-Local received a donation from la RED.

Links:

 
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