When the wind peeled away roofs and sent debris hurling into homes, they set up tarps and cleared away debris. When families were thirsty and hungry, they gave away bottles of water and hot meals. When neighborhoods were suspended in a state of darkness, with no access to electricity, they distributed generators.
“We were the first face many of the residents saw after the hurricane. We were the first ones to come to help and verify that this is not a lost cause,” said Mario of the ENLACE Project.
Your donation to the Puerto Rico & Caribbean Hurricane Relief Fund is helping Mario, and leaders at more than 20 other locally driven organizations, respond to their community’s most urgent needs.
Today marks six months since Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico. I visited the island last month to meet with our partners on the ground and saw how your decision to invest in their relief and recovery efforts is making an incredible difference!
Because our local partners know their community’s needs better than anyone else, they were able to quickly distribute emergency supplies, identify neighborhoods in need that others overlooked, and marshal multiple sources of support, from local businesses to community volunteer groups.
One nonprofit—situated in hard-hit Punta Santiago on the southeastern coast of Puerto Rico—has been able to serve 44,000 people in 13 municipalities since Maria made landfall just 15 miles south with winds of 155 miles per hour.
P.E.C.E.S. has delivered more than 250,000 pounds of food and supplies to hurricane-impacted families, coordinated health and psychological services to 600 people in need, and donated nearly 50 diesel generators to powerless homes—vital projects still in progress when I visited Punta Santiago in late February.
“We have found what we can do together,” P.E.C.E.S. Founder Nancy Madden told me, “and we know we can do even more things together. So, there’s great hope.”
José L. Aponte Cruz is also hopeful despite everything Maria took from him. The hurricane destroyed his family’s beachside restaurant and his car. He told me P.E.C.E.S. has been there for him, providing basic supplies and helping him find affordable rebuilding options.
“After the crisis, we cried and screamed. But now we want to rise,” said Cruz. "We are trying to get back on our feet, by the grace of God.”
Our partners in Puerto Rico are now busy planning for the future—and thinking about how to help people deal with PTSD, develop resilient housing, promote sustainable businesses, and much, much more.
They told me substantial barriers still stand in the way of full recovery, including issues with FEMA, years of economic decline due on the island due to debt, and an ever-shrinking government budget. You can find more in-depth coverage of these and other issues in a story published in Forbes last week, and I will send you additional updates from Puerto Rico over the coming weeks and months.
At this pivotal juncture, please know your support means everything to our Puerto Rican partners.
Britt + the GlobalGiving Team
Photo courtesy Red de Fundaciones de Puerto Rico