Hammerstone Helping Puerto Rico

$21,086 of $50,000 goal

Raised by 280 people in 7 months
Hammerstone in Puerto Rico Update


We knew before we came to Puerto Rico that there was an entire island to rebuild after such a horrific and targeted hurricane season this past year. What we didn’t know was how much of an impact the people of the island would have on us and also how much of an impact we would have on them. Local Puerto Ricans are effusive with their support: tears, smiles, exclamations of appreciation in both Spanish and English, and encouragement to keep working here. For these reasons, we have increased our fundraising goal. We always hoped that we could build a business structure to sustain our rebuilding efforts and also to transfer our skills to the local women.

There is a demand here from women to build skills and self sufficiency.  And there are a million Puchas who need roofs and renovation. We will bring our skills, ability and heart to share with the people of Puerto Rico for as long as they need us, and for as long as we receive support to do so!

State of the Island:

Here is what we have learned from observing the island, talking to people, and listening to the stories being told about our work on the news: Puerto Rico is still in incredibly rough shape.  People are so exhausted and overwhelmed trying to carry on everyday life in the aftermath of Maria, that it is challenging to tackle reconstruction. And unfortunately, the outside world has begun to move on.  

The people of Puerto Rico are immensely grateful to us for brining energy, a sense of hope, and renewed attention to the struggles of this beautiful island.  We will work here as long as we can.

Our Workshops:

As we were planning our trip to work and teach in Puerto Rico, a repeated comment we heard about our vision was “the culture in Puerto Rico is so different from the states.  Women are not going to be interested in attending a carpentry workshop, and the men will scoff at women in the trades.” We decided to ignore those cautionary warnings and are certainly glad we did. When we arrived at the YWCA in San Juan, the director greeted us, and immediately told us (she didn’t ask, she told!) that we would be coming back in April to teach another workshop.  She already has 40 names on a waitlist. We told her, “of course!” What else could we say?

35 women attended our 3-hour basic skills workshop!  Women started to show up 6 hours before the workshop began.  The YWCA had to turn away participants, promising another longer workshop in the near future.  The participants shared stories of their personal experiences with carpentry, enthusiastically tackled the hand saw and hammer, and shouted out carpentry terms in spanish for us as we tag teamed our teaching in a foreign language.  

Our Initial Project - Pucha’s House:

The project to rebuild Pucha’s house was on a tight timeline to begin with. After all, we all have families, children, full-time jobs, etc to get back to in Ithaca. After eight long days of hard work finding and overcoming obstacles, we have found a few that we simply cannot, in good conscience, ignore. When we removed the moldy wall paneling, we discovered rat chewed, bare, arcing wires.  It was clear that electrical updates and patches that we had planned, would not suffice. Fortunately, through our connection with the YWCA, we met a licensed woman electrician who is excited to collaborate with us to wire Pucha’s house safely. Although this adds more time to our project, it is an important step that we won’t overlook. When we talked to Pucha about the new scope electrical work that needed to get done, she said she was relieved. She knew rats had been in her walls - she could hear them. She always had a fear that they would chew the wires and start a fire. She appreciates that quality work takes time - sometimes beyond planned estimates.

Local News Coverage, and more!:

3 local television stations,  2 local papers, and now NBC New York, have interviewed our team about both the workshop at the YWCA and our work at Pucha’s house in Gurabo.  Everyone in the neighborhood where we are building is interested in our work. Of course, there is an element of gawking at something unusual.  But what we feel at the heart of those stares is a core of wonder and possibility. “Maybe there is a place for women in the trades. Maybe there is an opportunity to learn the skills necessary to take care of our own houses.  Maybe there is a sisterhood that we can be a part of!”


Our Mission:

Hammerstone’s goal is to help rebuild Puerto Rico while simultaneously training Puerto Rican women in construction skills.

Our crew is traveling to Gurabo, Puerto Rico for 10 days leaving on March 2nd.  We have a goal of raising $15,000 to cover materials and operational costs.  Our longer term goal is to create a sustainable organization that offers training in the trades to Puerto Rican women, as well as volunteer/learning opportunities to women from the states to support Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Our team:
We are a herd of unicorns - women working in non-traditional trades - who share the vision of increasing our numbers until women carpenters, electricians, painters, welders and plumbers aren’t viewed as odd, unusual, or novelties.

Maria Klemperer-Johnson, a builder since 2002, has been working to empower women in trades work since 2013 through Hammerstone School: Carpentry for Women .  

Julie Kitson, a builder since 2002, has more recently been working as a construction manager in the Ithaca area.  She works to train and hire women as much as possible.

Rebekah Carpenter is an electrician, despite what her last name might indicate.  She has worked installing Solar PV systems in Ithaca and around the world with her business Fingerlakes Renewables since 1999.

Melissa Galliher has worked in the trades for 13 years and owned her own drywall and painting business since 2015.  

Christina Alario has been working as a carpenter for 2.5 years.  She also teaches carpentry skills to women as a part of Hammerstone School.

Lisa Howard is new to construction.  She has been working installing new metal roofs for folks in Puerto Rico with the organization Rogues on Roofs since January.

Crista Shopis, an engineer with Taitem Engineering since 2007, has specialized in energy efficiency and solar electricity. Crista’s grandmother was born and raised in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.

Megan-Mack Nicholson, an outdoor educator and carpenter in her own right, is the organizing force that brought this group together.  While she won’t be able to join us in early March, she is part of our ongoing work.  

Our Projects:

This Hammerstone crew is travelling to Gurabo, Puerto Rico March 2-11 to work on the following four projects.  We are working with the mayor of Gurabo and other local organizers to train Puerto Rican women alongside us.

Pucha’s home

Pucha's roof, blown off during hurricane Maria, was only replaced in early February by Rogues on Roofs.  Although she has a new roof, she still can't move home because of extensive water damage.  Hammerstone's main project will be to tile her floor, replace her walls and update her electric so that she can move out of her nephew's house.

Rogues on Roofs

Hammerstone plans to carry on the work that the grass-roots organization Rogues on Roofs has started. Replacing blue tarps with permanent metal roofs and improving the structural integrity of these roofs is a critical first step before renovation can begin.  

Mundo’s stables

Edmundo Jimenez, who owns the Equus Center equine therapy farm in Gurabo, is hosting us during our work in P.R.  Above is a picture of the farm the day before the hurricane.  While he has dug out from under the bulk of the devastation (see the picture at the top of this page), his therapy horses are still without a stable and freely roam the neighborhood.

Training at the YWCA in San Juan

Rogues on Roofs connected us with Juanita Valentin-Morris, the director of the YWCA in San Juan.  We will be offering an afternoon skills building workshop to the women and girls associated with the YWCA.  To repair the damage that the YWCA building sustained during the Hurricane requires more time and money than we will have in March.  We hope at the very least to support Juanita’s fundraising efforts to restore this historic structure.

You can read about these projects in more detail on Hammerstone's website .

Thank you so much for your support of our project!  While so much work has been accomplished on the island, there is still an overwhelming amount to be done.  Please follow our progress here, on our Facebook page and on Instagram .
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A quote from Ian Shapiro of Taitem Engineering: "Let's show them that in upstate New York we design and build much more than buildings, we design and build hope!"
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I meant to post an update yesterday thanking all of our supporters for helping us reach 1/2 of our goal, and then overnight we raised another $2000!

Thank you all! We have bought our tickets and the crew pictured here is on its way a week from today.

I was speaking with a supporter this morning who offered to donate tools to this endeavor. "There is an amazing ripple effect to just showing up to help folks in need. Seeing someone face to face, working alongside you to help in the recovery, bolsters your hope and your faith in the goodness of humanity."

Our work is dependent on your generosity, and we are so thankful that you have shown up so that we can show up in person to help the people of Puerto Rico.
The awesome women headed to P.R.
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Raised by 280 people in 7 months
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