Puerto Rico Trip Itinerary

All of the projects you will be volunteering your time to have gone through a rigorous review process to ensure two things, namely, that they are both intentional and sustainable. We are committed to battle against the culture of “voluntourism” where volunteer experience is mainly beneficial to the volunteers, rather than the community. Each project you will be working on has been thoroughly vetted to make sure that it gives a tangible benefit to the community. Moreover, with every project, we asked ourselves “how will this project benefit the individual or community, after a week, a month and a year after we complete the projects.” With that in mind, below are the descriptions of the projects you will be helping with!

Day 1: Ponce

We will be working with Chef José Andrés as COO of the island’s largest feeding program, serving over 3 million meals to those in need since Hurricane Maria. We will be working on their farm that is the main supply of food for this program. Every minute of work that you put in will result in getting food to those who cannot afford it or still do not have access to basic necessities.

Day 2: Utuado

This is a community where people are still living in the wreckage of Hurricane Maria and they do not have access to any healthcare, except for when organizations like ours lend a hand. The medical volunteers will be set up in the clinic and will have a full day of seeing patients. Last month, 20 doctors were at this clinic for a day and they saw 485 patients. The doctors will be working side by side with students from the University of Puerto Rico Medical School. While the doctors are seeing patients we will be serving hot meals in the community through the NGO “We Do Better.” The other volunteers will be working at the pre-school across the road on a community garden that was destroyed during the hurricane. Every child at this school is paired with an elderly person in the community to help teach them, through agriculture, the value of responsibility and hard work. Through fostering these relationships and giving the community an agriculture infrastructure, we will be leaving a lasting impact on both the newest and oldest members of this community. We will also be distributing shoes at a local baseball camp, through Project Lace ‘Em Up to those in the community who can not afford or do not have shoes of their own. Finally, one of the communities main sources of income, a local coffee farm, was destroyed in the hurricane and the owner desperately needs help in order to get his plantation back up and running in order to help stimulate the local economy.

Day 3: Humacao

We will start the day by going house to house through the community distributing food donated by “We Do Better” and PathStone. The University of Puerto Rico Humacao (UPRH) social work students will be working side by side with our volunteers in this distribution process. Every family that will be given this aid has been vetted and identified by these students to ensure we are distributing our resources to those who need it most. This will give volunteers an opportunity to meet the individuals still being affected by the aftermath of the hurricane and see how much help these rural communities in Puerto Rico still need.

After Hurricane Maria, there was a mass exodus of people leaving Puerto Rico, those who stayed behind are mostly the elderly. Their houses are not just a place to live, but rather, a piece of their history that they would never abandon. Due to this, especially in this community, there are many elderly people living alone, without power and their only interaction with another human is a once a week 30-minute session with a student from UPRH. A key example of this is an 80-year-old woman named Diana Fontanez. After the hurricane, all of her family fled to the mainland United States leaving her all alone in her house with no support, or even electricity. She has mostly given up on taking care of herself or her house and feels too far gone to change now. We will be helping her get back on her feet by helping her get her house back in order through cleaning, painting and waterproofing her house. The outside of her house is all meticulously places pebbles from the beach that was done entirely by hand by her and her husband, but they never got the chance to finish before he passed away. She has not been anywhere besides her house and the hospital in months, so we will be having some volunteers go with her to the beach and pick stones and help her finish her and her husbands work.

Mrs. Fontanez is just one of many people in that community in this situation, so we figured out a sustainable way to help all the elderly people in the community long after we are gone. We will be building a community center where once a week, social work students from UPRH will pick up all the elderly members of the community and bring them to the center. At the center, there will be workshops, games, classes, and sessions with the UPRH students. The vast effects this Community Center will have on the mental health of these patients is immense and will change their lives and the lives of the elderly people in the community long after we finish work on this project. We will be painting and be building 4 different activity areas (music area, workshop area, gaming area, lounge area), planting a garden and a local street artist will be spending the day painting a mural on the main wall.

Day 4: San Juan

We will be working for half the day as our trip comes to a close. After Hurricane Maria many people fled the island, and did not return. Most of these people had pet cats or dogs that they could not bring with them. This has led to an epidemic across Puerto Rico where there are now stray cats and dogs, that were once domesticated animals, wandering streets all over the island. One woman, Christina Gonzales, has taken it upon herself to do all she can for these strays. Her heart is so big that she has taken in a combined 30 cats and dogs that were left behind during the hurricane. Obviously, living with this many animals comes with many issues and logistical concerns. We will be helping build her a kennel for these cats and dogs to thank her for doing something so selfless and caring for those who have no one left to care for them.