Puerto Rico Relief Trip By City

In September 2017, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico causing mass destruction. Months after the hurricane they were nowhere near back to normal, remote villages still suffered from badly damaged roads and no electricity. In June 2018, The RELIEF Foundation set up a mission trip to aid those still suffering from this natural disaster.

Our volunteers worked with community members to rebuild a Hurricane-Proof garden and distribute care packages to families in need. Additionally, RELIEF set up one of the first medical clinics to utilize Telehealth in a disaster relief setting!

Utuado

R.E.L.I.E.F. Effort: Medical Clinic

Highlights:

  • Physicians and Nurses from all over Mainland United States and Puerto Rico volunteered their time to care for patients at a clinic in Utuado, Puerto Rico
  • Over 100 patients were seen in just 2 days.
    Our team were pioneers in utilizing a Telemedicine system in a disaster relief setting.

The small town of Utuado was hit especially hard by Hurricane Maria due to their mountainous geographic location. Some of their roads were totally damaged and others still have large debris blocking their way. This meant that a community of 7,000 people on a hilltop in Puerto Rico could not travel and access basic healthcare.

Teaming up with a local organization, Cossao Mameyes, and a community leader, Tito Valentin, we were able to bolster the community’s ongoing efforts to increase access to healthcare by setting up a health clinic. Our volunteer doctors and nurses worked alongside doctors from the Puerto Rican nonprofit, Americares, to see patients. Additionally, we teamed up with a Telemedicine company, allowing more patients to receive remote care from doctors. With these combined efforts we saw over 100 patients of all ages, in just two days.

To ensure sustainability, we returned to Utuado 6 months later to install a custom healthcare model through a telemedicine platform. Community healthcare professionals participated in a training seminar to become proficient in operating this technology. Now, even if a doctor is not on-site, patients can receive remote care using the telemedicine platform.

R.E.L.I.E.F. Effort: Hurricane Proof Garden

  • Highlights:

    Volunteers and local engineers built a Hurricane Proof Garden

  • This garden will become a staple of community building and hopes to boost the town’s economy.
  • The garden will be managed through a community project that aims to close a generation gap! The community’s elderly and preschool children will tend the garden together.

The town of Utuado had a community garden that was much more than just a source of income. The garden was tended to by the elderly in the community and children at the nearby preschool. This source of cross-generational education is a tenet for this community. Together, they learn the values of teamwork, responsibility, and communication as they care for the garden. We spent two days working with local engineers to construct their plans for a “Hurricane Proof Garden.” All proceeds from the crops will go to boosting the town’s economy. In the future, they plan to build an adjacent butterfly garden. Through the restoration of this garden and exhibit, they hope to spark the beginning of a tourist attraction that will help boost the economy of the town.

Ponce

R.E.L.I.E.F. Effort: World Central Kitchen Farm Assistance

Highlights:

  • Our volunteers aided the World Central Kitchen farm. The produce is donated to create meals for families affected by Hurricane Maria.
  • With help from Home Depot, we were able to donate farming tools and equipment.
  • Now that they have the tools, they can hire additional labor for the farm.

The World Central Kitchen is a nonprofit founded by Chef José Andrés. They supply meals to families across Puerto Rico who have suffered financially due to Hurricane Maria. They work with local farms on the island that donate their produce to these efforts. However, the farm, El Reverdercer, did not have enough tools and labor to grow and collect their produce for this mission. Our volunteers spent a day plowing, harvesting, and clearing the farm to boost its ability to be a main supplier of food for this program. With help from Home Depot, we donated enough tools for them to continue to run their farm, and provide meals to those families identified by World Central Kitchen.

Humacao

R.E.L.I.E.F. Effort: Food Donation

Highlights:

  • Pathstone, a local nonprofit, teamed with us to identify many families in need of aid.
  • The nonprofit, We Do Better, donated 65 bags of care packages!
  • Our volunteers spent a day distributing this aid to the identified families.

This town is truly struggling financially, and therefore, can hardly put food on the table. A local nonprofit, Pathstone, goes door to door and takes community surveys to find who is in the greatest need of aid. Once identified, the nonprofit, We Do Better, donated 65 bags of food for this cause. Our volunteers spent a day packing and distributing these care packages to the families identified by Pathstone.

R.E.L.I.E.F. Effort: Hurricane Roof Damage

Highlights:

  • An elderly lady in the community had water leaking into her room every night.
  • Our volunteers sealed the leak in her roof
  • She shared her experience with our volunteers, giving them an invaluable education about the complex and long-lasting world of disaster recovery.

The University of Puerto Rico School of Social Work identified a local elderly woman whose roof was damaged by the Hurricane. As a result, water would leak on her bed every night. She had no electricity or contact with anyone other than a social work student who checks in on her. Our volunteers patched her roof so she can sleep safely at night without water damage affecting her health and living conditions.She is just one of many elderly people in this community living in similar conditions.

R.E.L.I.E.F. Effort: School Renovation

Highlights:

  • We donated the supplies and materials needed to refurbish a damaged school into a Community Center for the Elderly.
  • Our volunteers painted, tiled, and cleaned the school grounds.
  • We built and fully planted a garden with peppers, spices, greens, and herbs!
  • The materials donated will allow the community to continue to work to repair the damaged school.

A school in Humacao was severely damaged by Hurricane Maria. The initial idea for this project was to repurpose the school in order to create a Community Center for the Elderly. Many elderly people in this community are living alone, without power or social contact, other than a UPRH (University of Puerto Rico Humacao) Social Work student for a weekly assessment. We were able to donate all of the supplies and equipment for this refurbishment. Our volunteers spent a day at the school painting, tiling the floors, and planting a garden. We were honored to speak to and learn from, the elderly in the community who came to see the project.

Special Thanks

Utuado

  • Cossao
  • Tito Valentin
  • Heriberto Marin
  • Dr. Edwin Ramirez from Americares

Ponce

  • World Central Kitchen
    • Erin Schrode
  • El Reverdecer Farm
    • Abner Santiago

Humacao

  • Widdy Figueroa
  • Yesenia Florez
  • Pathstone
  • Bobby Rodriguez of We do Better
  • Profta Marta Bermudez
  • Students from the University of Puerto Rico Humacao Social Work School
  • Rully

Sponsors

  • Home Depot
  • Southwest
  • RCCB Lawfirm
  • Casa Saffra – Monique Casablanca