Jul 6, 2020

Pandemic but We are Still Keep Going Strong

Project implementation committee virtual reunion
Project implementation committee virtual reunion

Caño Martin Peña communities are still strong and the pandemic did not stop Resiliency Centers / Community Kitchens Project. Since the last time you, our dear supporters heard from us another emergency disrupted the country and the world. The COVID-19 Pandemic has stop the world. The Governor of Puerto Rico decreed a lockdown that lasted almost three months and the restrictions still continue although they are some flexibilites. This means that by executive order, community centers cannot be used for activities that were regularly carried out and had been previously reported. However, we keep working with things that we can control. During the lock down the project implementation committee have continued to meets virtually to re-assign tasks that can be done remote. Also, has been discussing the new reality of COVID-19 and re-thinking a creative way to continue the path to build the Resiliency Centers / Community Kitchens. Remotely we were able to hire a project manager, also develop the RFP through a participatory process to create a space which can hold Resiliency Centers / Community Kitchens. Recently, we resume the face-to-face work continuing with the process of design and visiting the schools to resume the activities with all the precautions and following the Government guidelines.

On other hand, the arrival of the year 2020 brought an earthquake event to Puerto Rico. Some structures were highly affected although the schools where our Resiliency Centers / Community Kitchens project will be carried were not affected. However, this event has raised a red flag on how structures have been built in Puerto Rico, which is why the structural evaluation of the two schools has taken on great importance. Seismic activity in Puerto Rico continues to be very active and it has continued to tremble. Maintaining the safety of residents is very important in this project while developing a space that will be enabled to deal with emergencies. A preliminary inspection was carried out, but structures need to be more secured. In order to strengthen the structure, the project needs additional funds. This will allow have community centers suitable serving people during hurricane and earthquakes emergencies.

These are communities that despite adversities have the ability to rise. In this few years Puerto Rico has to face bravely three emergencies: Hurricane Maria, earthquakes and a Pandemic. Now, more than ever, it’s crucial to build spaces that allow community members to have a safe space. The project needs to continue raising funds for these centers to fully reach their potential as resiliency centers and community kitchens that can continue serving people during emergencies, they need the self-sufficiency that solar energy and rainwater harvesting can provide. Also, strengthen earthquake resistant structures. With your support, and through partnerships with volunteers and other allies, we can fully furnish the centers with what they need to succeed.

Site inspection Resiliency Centers
Site inspection Resiliency Centers

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Mar 4, 2020

Rebuilding Community Centers- Tool for Community Empowerment

Community microentrepreneurs meeting
Community microentrepreneurs meeting

The rehabilitation and conditioning of our Resiliency Centers continue with a strong step, encouraging the integration of volunteers and collaborators with members of the community in the space improvement. Remembering that these two spaces were rescued by the community to develop safe and resilient community centers according to the needs and desires of the residents.

In this period of time, the rehabilitation work has continued and the spaces for the technical works of systems facilities for the Community Kitchens have been prepared. We received groups of volunteers who were sweeping the area where the Community Kitchen will be in the Santiago School. Also, painting benches and walls. While in the Moises School they were sweeping the outer surroundings, fixing the community garden, cleaning the meeting room where the Community Board celebrates meetings. One of the most important things about the integration of volunteers with the community is that a conversation is held so that visitors know from firsthand the vulnerable situations of residents and the importance of having their own resilient space that serves as a community-based development structure.

For us it is important to continue promoting a sense of community ownership. The use of spaces has increased, for example, there have been meetings of community microentrepreneurs, professional development workshops for residents and young people, workshops for the prevention of violence to children through the after-school program, meetings of the Community Boards, among others. Recently we had an episode of heavy rains that flooded the streets of the communities and many residents were affected losing their belongings. It becomes more important to continue strengthening these community centers that serve as safe and resilient spaces during emergencies. With your support, and through partnerships with volunteers and other allies, we can fully furnish the centers with what they need to succeed.

Volunteer preparing the Community Kitchen area
Volunteer preparing the Community Kitchen area
Professional development workshop with residents
Professional development workshop with residents
Volunteers sweeping in the Moises School
Volunteers sweeping in the Moises School

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Dec 6, 2019

From Blighted Building to Art-Covered Community Center

Community Members and Artist Painting Mural
Community Members and Artist Painting Mural

As we began our Resiliency Centers / Community Kitchens project, we wanted to ensure that the project is focused and successful, while also ensuring that community voices are heard throughout project planning and implementation. We created a project implementation committee, which includes community leaders as well as staff who can offer them technical assistance and support. The committee meets regularly to assign tasks among members, report on status, and make decisions.  

Although installation of solar systems and rainwater harvesting systems has not yet started, other building-rehabilitation work has begun, including general grounds upkeep, some electrical system improvements necessary for solar system installation, and removal of old furniture, waste and debris left by the previous tenants. Volunteers also painted one of the buildings, the Santiago school.   

As part of the process of the communities taking over the school buildings, a mural was designed through a participatory process by community members with the support of a Puerto Rican artist to be painted in the Santiago school.  Residents decided that the mural should show something that represented them. They chose to depict a scene of the Caño Martín Peña, showing the water but also the homes and vegetation that surround it. This foments a sense of community ownership of the center and deepens a sense of belonging.

Community members have already begun to partially use the schools as community centers and for community activities, including for community board meetings and after-school programs, little league, among others. However, for these centers to fully reach their potential as resiliency centers and community kitchens that can continue serving people during emergencies, they need the self-sufficiency that solar energy and rainwater harvesting can provide. With your support, and through partnerships with volunteers and other allies, we can fully furnish the centers with what they need to succeed.

Community Kids Helping to Clean School
Community Kids Helping to Clean School
Volunteers painting the Santiago School
Volunteers painting the Santiago School

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