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Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery

by Filantropía Puerto Rico
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Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Puerto Rico emergency relief / long-term recovery
Matria visited Miraflores after Hurricane Maria.
Matria visited Miraflores after Hurricane Maria.

The FORWARD Puerto Rico Fund is a fund that supports local grassroots organizations that are assisting communities affected by the devastating hurricanes Irma and Maria. This report describes the work that is being done by one of the organizations supported through the Fund.

Inside a small classroom in a church located in the Miraflores sector of Orocovis, about 20 people, mostly women, graduated from the first empowerment workshops of the Casa Solidaria program, created by the non-profit organization Proyecto Matria. They stepped outside to pose for a photo -- smiling and enthusiastically holding up their certificates with the mountains as the backdrop -- which is later published on social media with the hashtag: #MirafloresEsElFuturo. Miraflores is the Future.

Miraflores was one of the places Matria visited after Hurricane Maria. There they assisted about 35 families, which even before the storm were living in poverty. Many residents of the community are unemployed, have speech and hearing problems, some are illiterate, and even those with a minimum level of education do not have the skills to find employment. That is why Matria chose Miraflores to implement Casa Solidaria, its pilot recovery program. The residents were very receptive to being part of this project which aims to give them the tools to create small businesses and rebuild their community.

What distinguishes Matria's business incubation model is that "it's a holistic and empowering model, and contrary to traditional incubators that almost always focus on populations with a higher level of professionalism, even previous business experience, our model focuses on people who are entrepreneurs by necessity. Their economic situation forces them to generate some kind of economic activity because there are no jobs and they have no other options", explains Amárilis Pagán Jiménez, executive director of Proyecto Matria.

The first group has already started a process that will last a minimum of one year and will include entrepreneurship workshops, individualized technical assistance, search for seed capital and consultations that will help them take their first steps in setting up their businesses. The project will also offer psychosocial support, free legal advice, and after school programs for their children. Under Casa Solidaria they will also work on housing reconstruction and getting materials for people who lost their roofs, agricultural development and a community kitchen. It's a long-term and multi-faceted project that will last between three to five years.

For Matria this program is historic because in its 14 years of existence it's the first time they have men participating in their workshops. Matria is a feminist organization that was founded to assist survivors of domestic violence and female heads of family. Over the years they expanded their reach to include members of the LGBTQ community and now under Casa Solidaria they are working with entire families, including men.

"They have responded so well to the workshops that it confirms what we always thought, that our model, though created for women in extremely vulnerable situations, is applicable and helps any other person who is in a situation of vulnerability," reflects Pagán Jiménez.

That's why they created the hashtag #MirafloresEsElFuturo, the participants of this program are paving the way for future Casas Solidarias in other communities around the island.

They created the hashtag #MirafloresEsElFuturo.
They created the hashtag #MirafloresEsElFuturo.
Mostly women live in the Miraflores sector.
Mostly women live in the Miraflores sector.
Participants are paving the way for future Casas.
Participants are paving the way for future Casas.

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There are currently 250 students enrolled.
There are currently 250 students enrolled.

The FORWARD Puerto Rico Fund is a fund that supports local grassroots organizations that are assisting communities affected by the devastating hurricanes Irma and Maria. This report describes the work that is being done by one of the organizations supported through the Fund.

NUESTRA ESCUELA

Since 2000, the nonprofit organization Nuestra Escuela has tackled the issue of school dropouts  through alternative education. Their model doesn't just focus on academic and intellectual development, it also addresses the emotional, social, physical and spiritual needs of the students.

Many young people who attend Nuestra Escuela come from disadvantaged, unstable, and even violent backgrounds, are teen parents, or were simply unsuccessful in adapting to traditional schools. That's why Nuestra Escuela, which is part of the public school system of Puerto Rico and in 17 years has impacted the lives of over 1600 students, adapts to their learning styles and interests. This innovative approach allows them to earn a high school diploma while producing well-rounded citizens in the process.

"Just the fact that these young people say that if it weren't for Nuestra Escuela they would be dead or in jail, I believe is an important contribution to their lives, to their families and to the country," expressed Ana Yris Guzmán Torres, president y cofounder of Nuestra Escuela.

There are currently 250 students enrolled in the Caguas and Loiza centers, most between the ages of 13 and 21, and they are the ones that guide the curriculum by selecting individual projects. However, like many projects planned for the second half of 2017, Hurricane Maria changed everything.

The lack of electricity combined with flooding in the Caguas center caused mold to accumulate in the walls and destroyed all their books and computers. Nuestra Escuela also lost their four gardens, which were used for growing food and as laboratories. One in particular had installed solar panels and a sustainable water irrigation system.

Despite these setbacks, both centers reopened in October. The students decided to put aside their personal projects and work on helping their communities. During the first months after Maria, food was the priority. With the support of the FORWARD Puerto Rico Fund, they established community cafeterias to provide hot meals for the students, their families, and other members of the community, including many elderly people. These services are still available to those who continue to require them.

In 2018, the Nuestra Escuela students took on new community projects. These include a census of the needs of their communities and the creation of a natural mosquito repellent, in response to the mosquito outbreak that followed the storm. They are also rebuilding the gardens, as well as working on an additional garden run by the organization Urbe a Pie (Walking City) in Caguas.

"After the hurricane, the country changed, and priorities also changed, but one of the things we want to maintain in the organization is the openness to have this project led by the voices of our students, since they are the ones who truly know what they need," said Guzmán Torres.

The first months after Maria food was a priority.
The first months after Maria food was a priority.
#onedayatatime
#onedayatatime
The students created a natural mosquito repellent.
The students created a natural mosquito repellent.

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Schools are located in impoverished communities.
Schools are located in impoverished communities.

The FORWARD Puerto Rico Fund is a fund that supports local grassroots organizations that are assisting communities affected by the devastating hurricanes Irma and Maria. This report describes the work that is being done by one of the organizations supported through the Fund.

Instituto Nueva Escuela ( the New School Institute) is a nonprofit organization that aims to transform Puerto Rico's public school system through the Montessori teaching method. The number of INE schools has been growing over its 17 years of existence to now include 49 public Montessori schools in 27 municipalities around the island, serving students from 0 to 18 years of age, including special education students. The participation of the family in the child's education is an integral part of the child's development. "With every child that comes, we enroll the family," states INE's website.

INE schools are often located in impoverished communities, including public housing projects. INE boasts a 0% school dropout rate, 0% violent incidents, 0% drug-related incidents, and a 16% increase in enrollment over the past 3 years; all of the schools have waitlists. Its successes have attracted philanthropic support from local foundations that have supported INE’s growth over the years.

While the damage caused by Hurricane Maria to most of INE's schools was relatively small, the surrounding communities were devastated, particularly the mountain and coastal areas of Barranquitas, Aibonito, Naranjito, Humacao, and Patillas, and the island municipality of Vieques. Despite this fact, communities came together to clear debris from the schools, empty the floodwater, clean and repaint the facilities so that they could reopen as soon as possible. INE worked with the faculty and staff of each school on community relief projects, setting up collection centers for basic necessity items and organizing brigades that would distribute these around the communities. MIT and the University of Puerto Rico's Architecture School are collaborating to bring solar power to several INE facilities and to build new homes at a number of the municipalities most affected by the hurricane. Members of the community will be involved, allowing them to acquire new skills, such as the installation of solar power systems, with the aim of creating self-sufficient communities.

INE received operating support from the FORWARD Puerto Rico Fund that enabled them to reestablish their operations. Others donated generators and cisterns, allowing them to meet the Department of Education's requirements of having access to power and water in order to reopen after the storm. While the vast majority of public schools on the island remained closed until early 2018, about 90% of INE's schools reopened before December.

"We continue to use the round table method, and community participation. We give priority to recognizing and serving the community's agenda. The door is always open, the school is a community center. It can serve as a base of support, but also to plan. To plan for happiness, to become free from dependence, to solve things collectively," points out Ana Maria Garcia Blanco, the executive director of INE.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, public school enrolment in Puerto Rico has decreased by 27,000 and Puerto Rico’s finances are in a precarious state. The Department of Education has announced  that over 300 public schools will close during the summer of 2018, including some INE schools. The Department of Education is aiming to convert INE public schools into charter schools, a proposal that was rejected by Garcia Blanco and which has raised concerned among the INE school directors.

Communities came together to clear debris.
Communities came together to clear debris.
Collection centers for basic necessity where set.
Collection centers for basic necessity where set.

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The Loiza location became a distribution center.
The Loiza location became a distribution center.

The FORWARD Puerto Rico Fund is a fund that supports local grassroots organizations that are assisting communities affected by the devastating hurricanes Irma and Maria. This report describes the work that is being done by one of the organizations supported through the Fund.

The passing of hurricanes Irma on September 5th and Maria on September 20th severely damaged three of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico (BGCPR)’ s 13 centers in Puerto Rico. Many of the BGCPR staff personally suffered the effects of the storm. But a few days after the Hurricanes, they returned to work to assess damages and determine how best to help their communities. A survey of BGCPR programs participants revealed that 10% of them had lost everything and many others were in need of food and water

The BGCPR offers after-school programs for kids and teens throughout Puerto Rico through community-based centers. Programs are designed to empower youth to become good citizens, and lead productive and healthy lives. Educational programs include bilingual tutors and provide recreational activities in a safe environment. Ninety percent (90%) of children who participate in these programs live in households with a median income below the poverty level

The town of Loíza is one of the poorest in Puerto Rico. It has the highest proportion of people of African descent. As a coastal town, it suffered the widespread destruction of homes. Electricity and water were not available after the first of the two hurricanes.  With the help of volunteers and several civic organizations the BGCPR turned its Loíza location into a community support center, collecting and distributing water, food, clothing, and basic supplies. The Center also organized a crew that cooked and served thousands of hot meals. 

BGCPR centers in Vieques, Bayamón, Santurce and Isabela were also used as community support centers. They distributed food and essential items donated by diverse foundations, corporations and individuals they organized medical evaluations by volunteer doctors, and assistance in applying for FEMA support. Resources were available to anyone who needed them, regardless of whether their children are enrolled in the programs or not. All this occurred while still offering their programs.

Public schools were closed, but BGCPR was open. "We did not have to think twice about it," said Olga Ramos, president of BGCPR. “We are known for ensuring the wellbeing of our children, and it must be so in this moment of historical crisis. Our programs help to give participants a sense of security and allows the parents to return to work while schools are closed. This, in turn, helps the economic recovery."

"Even before the hurricanes, our participants were already facing a difficult situation since most of the homes we reach are economically deprived," said Eduardo Carrera, BGCPR chief executive officer. "Our objective has always been to provide youth with the resources to explore their own interests, develop their talents and thrive in the current economy. This crisis will only make us stronger and give us the energy to continue.  We will continue to assist our boys and girls to acquire the necessary skills to find jobs or to explore entrepreneurship so that they become economically independent and contribute to their community".

The BGCPR offers after-school programs.
The BGCPR offers after-school programs.
The programs give participants a sense of security
The programs give participants a sense of security

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Solar panel installation at a home in Adjuntas, PR
Solar panel installation at a home in Adjuntas, PR

The FORWARD Puerto Rico Fund is a fund that supports local grassroots organizations that are assiting communities affected by the devasting hurricanes Irma and Maria. This report describes the work that is being done by one of the organizations supported through the Fund.

Casa Pueblo

Among the many projects and initiatives spearheaded by the community organization Casa Pueblo, located in the town of Adjuntas, those involving solar power have become a priority since Hurricane Maria devastated the island in September. The topic of renewable energy becomes more and more relevant as the months pass and many of Puerto Rico's rural communities, including most of Adjuntas and its neighboring towns, remain without power.

As part of their response to the humanitarian crisis that followed the storm, Casa Pueblo distributed solar-powered lamps to 80% of homes in Adjuntas, as well as in Jayuya, Utuado, Yauco, Castañer, Lares, Loíza, Vieques, Aibonito, Humacao, and other municipalities. The organization's home base, which has been operating with solar power since 1999, became an oasis for people in the southern and central regions of the island to charge their phones and communicate with their loved ones outside of the island.

Currently, Casa Pueblo is focusing on establishing solar communities. The organization installed solar panels with energy storage and battery systems in 10 homes in Adjuntas, giving priority to those with residents requiring dialysis or respiratory therapy. They also installed solar power systems at a nursing home, the Head Start center, and the municipal shelter.

They are now in the process of selecting the first 16 houses that will receive solar powered refrigerators. This initiative is being funded by the FORWARD Puerto Rico Fund and will eventually impact 25 to 30 residences in Adjuntas. The expectation is that these will become energy oasis in their communities, allowing others to also store food and medicines that require refrigeration.

The hurricane also sped up the implementation of two energy-based projects that were already in the works. In January, Radio Casa Pueblo became the first radio station in the Caribbean to operate 100% with renewable energy. And in February, Casa Pueblo will inaugurate a solar-powered cinema.

Casa Pueblo's long-term goal is to inspire a transition to a renewable energy model across the island, which is why they created the campaign #iLuminarPRconSOL.

"From an educational point of view we will show the community and the island that there are other ways to handle (the energy crisis) ," explained associated director of Casa Pueblo, Arturo Massol Deya.

"Casa Pueblo has been pushing for a long time for a transition to an energetic model that is self-sufficient, where we can leave behind fossil fuels and move towards clean energy sources. This isn't new, it's an agenda that has the conservation of natural and environmental resources in mind. Hurricane Maria emphasized the need to provoke this transition. And since we don't have control or much faith in this happening from the top down, it falls on us to create this change from the bottom up," he added.

Solar panel installation at a home in Adjuntas, PR
Solar panel installation at a home in Adjuntas, PR
Solar panel installation at a home in Adjuntas, PR
Solar panel installation at a home in Adjuntas, PR
Solar lamps were provided to Adjuntas residents
Solar lamps were provided to Adjuntas residents

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Organization Information

Filantropía Puerto Rico

Location: San Juan - Puerto Rico
Website:
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Project Leader:
Janice Petrovich
San Juan, Puerto Rico
$302,068 raised of $350,000 goal
 
2,348 donations
$47,932 to go
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