Puerto Ricans in Action took a third trip to Puerto Rico from June 18 to June 24, 2018. The primary goal was to connect with organizations and individuals we’ve been working with since the hurricane. We wanted to see, first hand, their work and how our donations were put to use.
Day 1: We drove from Penuelas to meet with Daisy in Arecibo. Daisy has been helpful in distributing supplies in Puerto Rico. It was her brother who first found out about us after WAPA TV highlighted our visit. After a few phone calls, Daisy and PRIA planned her approach and what towns she would visit with the supplies (Arecibo & Las Marías). Over the last ten months, we have been able to send her over 5 thousand pounds of supplies. We met with Daisy at a bakery in Arecibo and discussed the work she’s done since the hurricane, how she and her husband served as volunteer pastor’s and offering mental health support for families. Daisy is very much concerned that mental health is an epidemic, and that much of the Government’s response has been to drug people. She said that people feel ashamed a lot for losing everything and have a hard time asking for help. We’re committed to continuing working with Daisy.
Day 2: We traveled to Loiza to meet with Taller Salud, who we donated $7,000 to after the hurricane. We introduced ourselves and took a tour of their offices where we learned about their programming for mental health, workshops, safe sex education, and domestic and community violence prevention. They were excited to share that they had been able to triple the mental health staff since the hurricane, treated nearly 2,000 people with psychological services after Maria, and distributed 8,000 hot meals in the first 60 days. The visit left a lasting impression on us.
Day 3: Our most significant project is the Agua Proyecto Limpia, which is a partnership with the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Institute. In October 2017 we funded the pilot program with 320 water filters. These first filters were distributed in Utuado just a few months after the hurricane. On our trip this summer, we were able to visit Utuado with the distribution team for a day. Our first stop was the Utuado branch of the Puerto Rico Primary Care Association Network, Corporación de Servicios Medicos CSM IPA-19. They serve as the community facilitator for this project. They drove us up into the mountains of Utuado with seven filters. The roads were still in disarray, and without a jeep or truck, there is no way to get up or down the mountain. Once we arrived, we met the community leader who had contacted families before our arrival to prepare them for our visit. The first family had a total of 5 people: three kids and two parents. We provided them with the water filter and toiletries. They explained that their neighborhood had just received power only two days prior, which is more than ten months without power. The distribution team took demographic information, provided instruction on how to care for the filter, and left the second one for their grandmother that lived next door. We made our way to the other five houses around the area and did the same process.
A Chance Meet Up With Oscar López Rivera
With an open morning, we took advantage of being in San Juan and visited with Oscar López Rivera. We met with Oscar at his office, which is full of gifts he has received from people around the world. The four of us talked for a few hours about our work and the island before breaking for lunch and heading on our way.
On our last day, we stopped at Iniciativa Comunitária, a non-profit we donated $7,000 to. Iniciativa Comunitária services the homeless and at-risk women and youth of San Juan with drug rehabilitation and education programs. After the hurricane, they saw a rise in the homeless population and noticed many were from other towns who had come to the capital looking for drugs. We specifically took a tour of their needle exchange, Punto Fijo, office. This program aims to reduce the spread of HIV amongst the homeless with complementary services. Every month, they serve about 400 unique individuals. Their leaders are unwavering and their mission unchanged since the 1980’s. We were honored to have met them and supported their cause.