Zero Deaths... A Collective Response to COVID-19

by Puerto Rico Community Foundation
Zero Deaths... A Collective Response to COVID-19
PryMed participants
PryMed participants

Eight months into the pandemic, and we’ve had ZERO DEATHS in the supported communities

Our ZERO DEATHS strategy has led us to support more than 46 non-profit organizations in their quest to educate and contain the virus and; in their process of providing other essential services. Sixty-four (64), out of our 78 municipalities have been impacted with $802,966 in grants. One of those organizations is PryMed, a community health clinic in Ciales, a municipality in the central region of the island. They have been able to serve 1,000 elders, some of them with mobility problems or homebound. They focused on providing baskets with local produce and non-perishable food items to help avoid visits to the stores and minimize contagious risk. One of the participants voiced out her gratitude, when part of the staff brought groceries on a Friday afternoon, it was not until Sunday that her son had planned to visit with some groceries, as she explained to PryMed staff that she was already out of food supply.  “¡Gracias mija!”, which translates to ‘thanks my friend’. “I was waiting for my son to come over the weekend to buy some little things…”, told the old lady, according to the organization's report.

In addition to educational and preventive services, our strategy supported microbusinesses affected by the pandemic to reduce closing risks and facilitate the operation. One of the grantees was Agape Tiendita Solidaria y Café, a thrift and consignment store in Arecibo -a municipality on the northern coast of the island. “One of the biggest challenges we faced has been keeping up to date with business operational payments. The lack of income has accumulated debts”, said the business owner report to FCPR. He explained that they had to close temporarily from March 16 to July 28 to keep the employees and clients safe. “This grant served as a fund to pay off some outstanding debts and start with a new impulse”, added.  The grant was used to pay the rent, license, energy service, and payroll. Another five micro businesses received grants.

The supported organizations have reached more than 14,981 people; have provided over 10,098 grocery bags and boxes of nutritional supplements; and 3,073 Covid-19 tests have been being administered in coordination with private laboratories. Also, 31 organizations and academic institutions have become allies of the initiative expanding educative initiatives in many communities around the island.

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Residents of the Arenas community in Guanica, PR.
Residents of the Arenas community in Guanica, PR.

As we hit the three-month lockdown mark, communities in Puerto Rico are coming together to support the most vulnerable. Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico,  through its NGO partners, has reached more than 11,000 individuals in 50 communities and has awarded 30 grants totaling $626,577.

Organizations from the southern part of Puerto Rico to the municipal island of Culebra, in the East Region, are organizing communities to provide food, health supplies, and administering tests and tracing contacts among many other personalized services depending on the needs of the families.

One of our grantees - VAMOS -  working with Arenas Community in the South of Puerto Rico, has shown what true resiliency is all about. When the pandemic began, they organized themselves to have a better understanding of the demographics of their community. They started surveying the families in the community, with 116 families, more than 50% of the population is over 55 years old. Almost 20% of the homes did not have a means of transportation and there were 30 people unable to take care of themselves. The community organized itself and put together an education and containment plan that included: alliance with a local laboratory to provide the community with tests, health practitioners visited families to educate and provide medical referrals, and the provision of food and health prevention equipment, such as masks.

The health pandemic became a window for economic activity for its residents. After initially buying masks and other equipment, they organized themselves to manufacture the masks. They established a group of seamstresses that elaborated over 1,000 masks. These were sold at $4 with a revenue distribution as follows: $1 to purchase material, $1 for the Arenas Community Fund, and $2 for the seamstresses. This innovative approach, allowed them to act on behalf of the well being of the community by providing access to this essential health prevention piece, but also to plan for the future of the community by establishing a community fund and stimulating job creation.

Within the communities our 30 grantees have been working on, ZERO DEATHS, have been reported.  

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Arenas Community gathering previous the emergency.
Arenas Community gathering previous the emergency.

We stepped in to address the health situation due to the COVID-19 in our island, with a Zero Death strategy worked from the community base to address the elderly population. Two weeks into the situation’s outbreak in Puerto Rico, we have been able to provide the first grant to VAMOS Concertación Ciudana Inc., to execute the strategy in Guánica, precisely the municipality of January 2020 earthquakes’ epicenter. VAMOS Concertación Ciudana Inc. has teamed up with local private laboratory – Laboratorios Toledo -  and has recruited a cadre of young volunteers to focus on: 1) providing for the acquisition of at least 100 test kits; 2) working hand in hand with the private laboratory to administer the test to the majority of their elderly population; 3) educate on virus prevention, provide sanitizing supplies, activate a referral protocol; and 4) provide support to aging population that needs to do grocery and run other errands that may expose them to the virus.

 “This model is very important, because it can be replicated in other Puerto Rican communities, and we are available to support and share our experience for their development”, said recently the general coordinator of VAMOS Concertación Ciudana Inc., Justo Méndez Arámburu to a digital magazine in the island (Puerto Rico Te Quiero). Luis Omar García Mercado, a community leader, told a national newspaper (Primera Hora) that after Hurricane María and the earthquakes, they learned that “if we don’t do things ourselves, none one else will do it”.

 VAMOS Concertación Ciudana Inc expects to reach +40 individuals, within the target population in three months.

 According to experts, it is the elderly population that is at most risk of death, especially those older than 70 years old. In Puerto Rico, 21% of the population is 65 years or older, many living under health, economic and social vulnerability. This population has been impacted negatively since Hurricane Maria and the most recent earthquakes in the South Region of Puerto Rico. Many of them living alone and under dire circumstances. So, the challenge is to identify where this population lives to provide access to education, hygiene supplies, and medical services to minimize their risk of being infected with COVID-19 and save every LIFE.

 We will provide philanthropic investment to, initially 5 to 10, health community clinics (330 Centers) and community based organizations that can reach approximately 500 elderly, to strengthen during the following three months their work with this aging population, including: reaching out to the elder population by phone to learn about their health status, provide education and preventing services, including the administration of COVID-19 tests, purchase and delivery of healthy food basket and medicines, and provide referrals to other community health clinics or medical institutions.

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Organization Information

Puerto Rico Community Foundation

Location: San Juan - Puerto Rico
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @FComunitaria
Project Leader:
Mary Ann Gabino
San Juan, Puerto Rico
$2,772 raised of $10,000 goal
 
35 donations
$7,228 to go
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