May 7, 2020

On our way to empowering Culebra (Report 4)

In the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and María during September 2017, Culebra and Vieques, two municipal islands in the north-eastern coast, remained without electricity for more than a year. During this period residents and businesses received their energy supply from power generators, representing a substantial daily cost and a damaging impact to the environment.

Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico proposed to transform Culebra's energy system into a renewable energy system by establishing a two-phase scalable project: 1) the development of a micro-grids network that will provide energy to commercial and non-profit organizations in the island; and 2) a distributed solar energy generation and storage system that will be supplied to critical facilities that provide essential services to Culebra's social and economic ecosystem.

This proposal was presented to EDA (Economic Development Administration) in late 2018. During summer of 2019 a $4 million grant was approved and was able to define a specific quantitative goal:+ 40 sites with 2,695 solar panels with hurricane-resistant racking, AC inverter batteries, metering and appurtenances that will allow to solarize most of small business and non-profit organizations in Culebra. The small island will become sustainable in terms of energy but also in terms of economic development, as these infrastructures will guarantee sustained economic activity among the islanders. It will also create construction and installation job on the short term and potential maintenance and repair entrepreneurship activity on the long term.

The project will provide a more robust and resilient energy infrastructure, uninterrupted services and year-long economy on energy costs. It will also lower the cost of doing business for Culebrenses. 

Some projected outcomes are:
1. This is the first phase of Culebra becoming the first island in America to have a renewable energy infrastructure.
2. Provide renewable energy infrastructure to 100% of Culebra’s business and non-profit sector.
3. Retention of current jobs and the creation of new economic opportunities.
4. Increase the ability to anticipate, withstand and bounce back from future catastrophic events

Because the complexity of the project and the regulatory processes involved we began the Request For Proposals (RFP), to contract engineering services by December 2019 and with the expectation to complete all contracting process by May 2020. With the January 2020 earthquakes and now the COVID-19 pandemic, we may be delayed. Meetings with the Major of Culebra, and the leaders of the Non-Governmental Organizations were held on March 12. An onsite walkthrough and preliminary inspection of all the properties was also performed in March 13, 2020. We foresee to start on-site installation by the beginning of 3Q of 2020.

As part of this proposal, we have to engage in a $1 million matching, we had previously received $100,000 from GlobalGiving and on January 2020, they awarded an additional $150,000, to increase their total contribution to $250,000, that is added to the $120,000 Prudential grant and an anonymous donor with $25,000. We’ve reached $345,000 from our matching requirement. We’re still $655,000 under, which we’re looking forward to continuing to engage new partners. 

Apr 30, 2020

Strengthening community aqueducts in time of crises

The year had a rocky start for the communities in Puerto Rico, as January brought the first major earthquake felt in nearly 100 years. This 6.1 seismic event, left the whole island without power and many communities without water for a couple of days, and thousands living in formal and informal shelter structures. The epicenter was in Guánica, in the south region of the island, for the first three months they registered hundreds of tremors a day, although the frequency has decreased, they are still feeling the tremors on a daily basis. Access to water has become vital after the earthquakes and it has taken major relevance with our current COVID-19 situation.

 During the first quarter of 2020, we were able to provide a grant to Río Chiquito Aqueduct in Ponce – south region of the island – and provide technical support to these communities: Bayamoncito in Aguas Buenas; Juan Hernández in Adjuntas; Toro Negro in Ciales; Perichi in San German; Gabino in Aguada; Las Corujas in Aguas Buenas; Corcovada in Añasco; Villa de Oro in Caguas; and Villa Vigía in Cidra.

 It has been through these encounters and conversation that we’ve been able to identify some areas of need in the wake of this health crisis, summarized below:

  • Many aqueducts rely on a fee for service system, this income allows for repair, infrastructure maintenance and disinfectant supplies to maintain the quality of the water. For many, these fees are not being collected due to physical distancing protocol or because many members of the community are lacking income to pay for their dues.
  • Most of these aqueducts are very old structures that need constant maintenance and repair. Due to the commercial lockdown materials and supplies are not readily available.
  • Aqueducts need to maintain a water quality standard, this is done through a disinfectant process that needs disinfectant supplies. Aqueducts are lacking the disinfectant supplies to provide access to drinkable water.  

 To topple these factors, there has been an increase in water demand as it is necessary to regularly wash hands, clothes and supplies to avoid spreading of the virus, thus putting more pressure on the already fragile structure.

 We’ve had the support of GlobalGiving, Hispanic Federation, Oxfam and other community foundations, with your collaboration we can continue to do more for these very needed community structures in the island of Puerto Rico.

 Our goal is to empower an association of community aqueducts in the island that can elevate the importance of these structures, strengthen them, and walk with them in the wake of future crises. Our long-term is to be able to strengthen 200 community aqueducts in Puerto Rico.

Feb 27, 2020

Grateful and motivated by donations

Fundacion Comumitaria de Puerto Rico set the goal to help the community aqueduct in Algarrobo, Aibonito a rural community in the central mountainous region of Puerto Rico to expand access to water to seven families. With the great support of the GlobalGiving Community we were able to raise $979.00, not the amount expected, but enough to elevate this community-based organization’s profile.

The Board of Directors of the Algarrobo Community Aqueduct Inc., in Aibonito, Puerto Rico, is very grateful and motivated by the donations raised through GlobalGiving for Giving Tuesday 2019 campaign. This women lead community aqueduct provides access to water to more than 70 families (250 individuals) in this isolated rural community.

“We’re very grateful to have been a part of this funding effort through GlobalGiving, a novel experience for us. We’re motivated and celebrating! For us, it’s the first step through the goal. We will continue our fundraising to reach the goal of $7,316.00, and complete this project”, said the president of the community aqueduct, Betsy García. She also highlighted that the campaign makes the community more visible because many people saw the story, photos and video of this social media campaign, which had the support of Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico. “More people in Puerto Rico known now our aqueduct. The community people are happy”, added.

Due to the distance between houses and their location in relation to the infrastructure of the community aqueduct, there are seven (7) families in the community that are not connected to the aqueduct, so they have no access to drinking water. These families depend on the water they collect from three (3) nearby springs, which are untreated waters, not suitable for consumption. The water flows with low pressure and the water system is unstable. With this project, the families will have potable water and a stable water system. 

The Algarrobo Community Aqueduct Inc. raised $979 through GlobalGiving and $60.00 through our website ($1,039 total). Henceforth, the community board of directors will meet to discuss this topic, as well as the tremors situation –they are very alert for what can happen if some of the tremors impact the community water infrastructure, something that has happened in the past.

With this report, we close this project. We will start the process of donations delivery. Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico will continue to support the project. 

 
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