13 Sep Puerto Rico Will Take Years to Recover — And We’ll Be There
This August, nearly a year after Hurricane Maria became the worst storm to ever hit Puerto Rico, the death toll was officially raised to 2,975 from just 64.
The revised tally came after researchers at George Washington University’s Milken School of Public Health released their independent study. The official count now ranks Hurricane Maria as one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history. More Americans died in Puerto Rico as a result of Maria than perished during Hurricane Katrina, which was believed to have killed more than 1,800 people.
As the Atlantic hurricane season hits its peak — and, right on schedule, Hurricane Florence is threatening the eastern seaboard with near Category 5 strength this week — Puerto Ricans are eyeing the skies with trepidation. As we have done since last September, Good360 is dedicated to activating our network of corporate donors and nonprofits to help the island in its long-term recovery as needed. That recovery is coming in fits and starts, to say the least.
Full power was finally restored to the country’s last remaining homes without electricity just this August — a full 11 months after the hurricane took out hundreds of power lines and left the entire island of more than 3 million people in a days-long blackout. As late as June, more than 11,000 residents were still living without power. Most of these literally powerless people lived in the island’s poorest enclaves, located in its rural, mountainous regions.
The recovery has been challenged by the island’s beleaguered and under-funded infrastructure, including an electrical grid maintained by a power authority that’s gone bankrupt. In April, the entire island lost power again after a single bulldozer struck a power line.
Residents have been left with a huge sense of frustration at the pace of progress.
“It’s been very slow,” said Michelle Rodríguez Maldonado, executive director of Niños de Nueva Esperanza, one of Good360’s closest nonprofit partners operating on the ground in Puerto Rico. “There’s still a lot of work to be done, but we try not to depend on the government for help.”
Our organization has been able to provide Niños de Nueva Esperanza with numerous supplies, including pillows, bedding, school supplies, toys, baby supplies, coloring books and other items. As its name suggests, the nonprofit normally focuses on creating a safe, secure and constructive place for children to develop.
However, the massive and widespread destruction left by Hurricane Maria has forced the community organization to “rethink what we were doing,” Maldonado said. The nonprofit now has expanded its outreach to help the elderly and other vulnerable populations still struggling to get back on their feet after the storm.
The reality is that Puerto Rico’s recovery will be years in the making, perhaps for a decade or more. Working through corporate and local partnerships, here are just a few of the notable ways that Good360 has been able to contribute to the rebuilding efforts:
- We partnered with Good Samaritan Shipping Ministries (GSSM) and Serta Simmons Bedding to send over 300 mattresses to families in need in Puerto Rico. GSSM then worked with a partner on the ground, JJ Lyon Guard Foundation, to distribute the mattresses. Many of the people who were affected by the storm have been without a mattress to sleep on for almost a year.
- We also approached Cocoon, which was able to donate over $20,000 worth of mattresses to families on the island. Niños de Nueva Esperanza helped us to identify the families who most needed these mattresses.
- We teamed up with Crisis Response International and Power Panel and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) to arrange the delivery of a mobile GEN2-O solar-thermal generator to Puerto Rico. The GEN2-O will bring power and hot water to Dos Bocas, a community that has been largely neglected because media attention had been focused on larger cities.
- Working with the San Jorge Children’s Foundation in Puerto Rico, we sent a donation of GAP clothing to underprivileged families and foster homes, helping those in the community who lack basic personal items.
- With a shaky power grid, solar-powered light sources are one of the most needed items in Puerto Rico at the moment. Good360 set out to find a creative solution by working with Citizen Watch. Last fall, the company matched every purchase of one of its watches with a donation of a Luci solar-powered light from MPOWERD. In all, Citizen Watch pledged to donate 5,000 Luci solar-powered lights that we were able to distribute to families on the island.
- Additionally, Good360 helped facilitate a big collaborative effort between FEMA, two U.S. Virgin Islands nonprofits and a wide variety of donors to deliver product to residents on the islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix. FEMA reached out to Good360, outlining a number of goods that were needed by nonprofits on the ground. Prior to that, Good360 had been prestaging product from donors such as The Home Depot and CVS in preparation for the needs that arise after a disaster and many of those goods aligned with the needs on the ground at that time.
The list of companies who partnered with us to provide critically needed goods to Puerto is long. They include The Gap, Cocoon, Serta Simmons Bedding, Citizen Watch, The Home Depot, Hasbro, JMZ, Sunstar Oral Care, Kimberly Clark, Happy Family Brands, West Marine Bikes, Makershop, Mattel, Nike, Momar, CVS, Scotch, Ramblers Way, Garage, Fox, Red Wing Shoes, Burt’s Bees, MN Home Outlet, 3M, Century, and NicePak. Our NGO partners include Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), Niños de Nueva Esperanza, and All Hands and Hearts.
With the help of these corporations and our nonprofit partners working on and off the island, we expect to be involved in Puerto Rico’s long-term recovery for many years. Through sustainable and innovative solutions, we not only want to help communities recover from the historic devastation of Maria, but also build up their resiliency to withstand future natural disasters.
If your company would like to partner with Good360 in this effort to help Puerto Rico rebuild, please contact Jim Alvey, director of disaster recovery partnerships, at firstname.lastname@example.org.