COMING TOGETHER FOR A PURPOSE
Together Puerto Rico started directly after Hurricane Irma when two friends living in Puerto Rico decided to raise money on a GoFundMe page to purchase basic necessities and supplies for people who were displaced from neighboring islands and staying in hospitals and hotels in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico was born out of empathy. We felt so fortunate when Hurricane Irma hit – it barely swiped Puerto Rico and still caused a lot of damage – but other smaller islands had not been as fortunate and had been completely decimated. There were people in a nearby hospital who had lost everything and barely had the clothes on their back. We had to do something.
Of course, when Maria hit Puerto Rico on September 20th, our much larger island was also widely destroyed. It was no longer a matter of empathy, but of survival.
After Hurricane Maria, all of Puerto Rico needed help. And we knew it would take ALL OF US TOGETHER to be able to recover. Read more about our achievements and goals.
In the direct aftermath of Hurricane Maria, life threatening diseases like leptospirosis were being confirmed by doctors across the island and some even lost their lives to the disease. The drinking water was not safe – if you had water at all, which most did not.
Plus, Puerto Rico was pitch black. There was a curfew at 5pm for several weeks after and people needed to be home by 5pm – but unless you had a flashlight and a lot of batteries, there was little to do in the dark of the night and it could get pretty scary. (Sunset is around 6:30 or 7pm in the summer months.)
Two things stood out as being needed more than anything: Water Filters and Solar Lights.
The need for clean water and light was paramount and that is where we lent our focus:
Water Filters –
High quality filters that keep out diseases like leptospirosis, E. coli, salmonella, giardia and other bacteria are needed. This is especially true for people with weakened immune systems.
Directly after the hurricane, many animals unfortunately died in the storm – from cattle and goats and horses to dogs and cats to rats, bats and birds. It is impossible to know how many dead bodies of animals contaminated the water supply and for how long.
Seven months after Hurricane Maria there is still an island-wide boil water advisory. Because blackouts are still commonplace, there is often not enough electric power for the water treatment system to properly clean the water. The government of Puerto Rico and FEMA tells us not to drink the water without first boiling it for 20 minutes.
Those who do not have water filters purchase water bottles or do without either, taking their chances on fresh water springs and tap water.
Solar Lights –
People need to feel safe inside their homes, to be able to walk around their homes without falling and hurting themselves. But Puerto Rico was pitch black. Four months after the hurricane, only half of the island had electricity back.
Today blackouts are a frequent occurrence – and a recent Washington Post article states (4/24/18) that in one mountain town – Las Piedras – the police blocked utility companies from leaving until they restored power.
HOW WE HELPED IN THE MIDST OF DISASTER
One week after Hurricane Maria we had four suitcases of supplies on the ground – solar panels, portable gas stoves, solar lights and water filters. Through another friend who came on board to help, these items were distributed to people who had lost everything and to people with weakened immune systems, like HIV patients. Little did we know at that time how much people would need those types of items and for how long they would need them.
When it became apparent that the aftermath was going to be long, we knew we needed to do more. We began a partnership with Water for Puerto Rico / Agua for Puerto Rico and began shipping water filters to them for distribution. We also shipped solar lights to the island.
A couple months later, when the majority of people still did not have electricity, we purchased, shipped and directly distributed more water filters to areas that needed it the most – Canóvanas, Las Piedras, Florida and Comerío.
Today, we continue to raise money to purchase water filters and solar lights for distribution. Our goal is to promote sustainability and economic stability (instead of wasting money on batteries/flashlights and plastic water bottles).
We also raise awareness about the problems still facing Puerto Rico and try to connect people who need resources with people providing resources.
Learn more our achievements here.
Learn more about who we are and our mission.