The effects of Hurricane Maria have disrupted the lives of more than 3.4 million American citizens living in Puerto Rico, including almost all of my family aside from my parents and two siblings. Most of my family members have been fortunate, in that their homes suffered little damage. However, like everyone else, they are challenged by the scarcity of drinking water, food, electricity, cash and gasoline.
Most significantly, the hurricane destroyed the island’s power grid and damaged vital communication and transportation channels. The entire island was left without electricity.
According to island officials, it could take as long as a year to restore power on the entire island. Presently, only 5 percent of the island has power, and less than half of Puerto Ricans have access to drinking water. Cell phone and landline communication are non-existent or unreliable. As many as 10,000 residents are living shelters, while others remain in heavily damaged homes, some without roofs.
Even the simplest daily routines have become time-consuming odysseys. People wait in line hours upon end, simply to purchase a few groceries or obtain gas. A cousin waited in line four hours to receive a case of water. Everyone keeps close watch of what they consume, not knowing how or when goods and services will become more readily available. Medicines and other health care services are in short supply, too, as without power, hospitals and other health care facilities struggle to remain open.
Helping residents recover from Hurricane Maria and getting the island back on its feet will be a lengthy, long-term process. It will require time, money and effort. The most immediate needs are food, water, shelter and electricity. Longer-term recovery will require rebuilding and updating power, communication and transportation infrastructure, all costly endeavors.
Currently, most organizations are asking for financial support instead of supplies. Many groups that collected household items, water and food, medical supplies and other necessities, have no way to get those items to the island – so the donations are sitting in storage facilities rather than getting to communities where items are needed.
On Oct. 10, the Hispanic Business Center/Northeast Ohio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Julia De Burgos Cultural Arts Center and the Hispanic Alliance, Inc. will host a phone bank with News 5 Cleveland to raise funds for #PuertoRico recovery efforts. All donations will be collected and transferred directly to the Puerto Rico Community Foundation (Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico) and specifically designated for hurricane relief efforts in the hardest hit areas throughout the island. You can also donate online through Nov. 30.
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- Lin-Manuel Miranda, Puerto Rican playwright and creator of the musical, “Hamilton,” wrote a new song, “Almost Like Praying.” It was recorded by a group of mostly Puerto Rican Latin artists. Proceeds from sale of the song will benefit the Hispanic Federation’s hurricane relief fund. Purchase it here on iTunes or on Amazon.
- Americares (americares.org) – delivers medicine and supplies, including antibiotics, wound-care supplies, intravenous fluids, mental health medications, and chronic disease treatments.
- Direct Relief (DirectRelief.org) – provides relief services for health care providers, particularly those that serve the poor.
- Feeding America (FeedingAmerica.org) – The nationwide network of food bank provides food relief to more than 46 million people through 60,000 food pantries and meal programs. In Puerto Rico, food is distributed through the Banco de Alimentos de Puerto Rico. To donate, visit www.Bancodealimentopr.org.
- Humane Society (helpsalvationarmy.org) – Rescuers from the Humane Society in Puerto Rico are working to help save and rescue animals affected by the hurricane.
- Salvation Army Puerto Rico (salvationarmyusa.org) – provides food and supplies for those affected by the hurricane.
- Samaritan’s Purse (Samaritanspurse.org) – The organization led by Franklin Graham is distributing shelter plastic, blankets, and hygiene kits, among other relief items, to residents in Puerto Rico.
- The Hispanic Federation (HispanicFederation.org) – The non-profit organization promotes civic engagement, economic empowerment and education, and other areas of importance for Hispanics.
- Save the Children (savethechildren.org) – works with the Red Cross, FEMA, and local agencies to meet the needs of children affected the Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
- UNICEF (unicefusa.org) – In wake of the hurricane in Puerto Rico, UNICEF is providing emergency relief kits for children who live on the island. These include water purification tablets, a bucket, soap, toothpaste, detergent and sanitary napkins, to keep them clean and healthy.
- United for Puerto Rico (UnitedforPuertoRico.com) – A relief fund established by the First Lady of Puerto Rico, Beatriz Rosselló, in collaboration with the private sector, to help victims of the hurricane.