After being severely wounded and paralyzed from the waist down by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, learning to walk again, running an ultramarathon, becoming a river guide in Alaska and then a salsa instructor in Utah, former US Army Staff Sergeant Aurita Maldonado chose the Caribbean island of Vieques off the coast of Puerto Rico to start a new chapter in her life with her new husband. The couple managed to secure a small piece of land on a mountainside on the island, and began building a home there in the summer of 2017. Hurricane Maria's fury blew their lives away a few short weeks later, leaving Aurita and her husband Alex to weather the storm in the bathtub of an abandoned shack nearby. Days after Maria destroyed much of Puerto Rico and nearly all of Vieques, Aurita found out she was pregnant with her first child.
Four months later, a group of veterans, relief workers and logistics professionals met Aurita - still living without healthcare or clean water, sleeping in the back of her run-down Jeep or the same abandoned building with no power and no dependable way to communicate with the world. She and Alex were helping remove storm debris and doing what other manual labor jobs they could find together in the aftermath of the hurricane, but the future looked bleak for this veteran who had given so much of herself for her country.
Since then, an incredible group of humans came together to make sure this Purple Heart recipient is not left behind. They've moved mountains to put Aurita and her family's life back on track, and they need your help to go the last mile. Here's what has happened so far, and how you can help 'Hurricane Rita' when she needs it the most:
What's been done:
Aurita now has free, private aircraft flights once per month to take her to the capital of San Juan for prenatal medical appointments and will have an aircraft ready to take her to a good hospital when their son arrives in May.
She's been reconnected with the world with a new phone and all the other necessities required to stay in touch with friends & family.
She's being provided with free, healthy meals courtesy of World Central Kitchen & Chefs For Puerto Rico to make sure her and her baby's nutritional needs are met.
She's been provided with safe, temporary housing until their new, permanent home can be built on the same land where their original building project was destroyed.
Now - where you fit in: with the help of a local design firm in Puerto Rico, the group of logistics professionals involved in making Aurita's future a bright one plan to build her a new home made from two incredibly strong ocean shipping containers. Both the containers that will make up the structure of the house have already been donated and will soon be on their way to the fabrication shop for conversion from massive metal boxes to a warm, inviting and safe house that is as 'hurricane proof' as you get. Others are pitching in to provide solar and battery power for the home as well as clean, independent water sources. What is needed now is funding to cover the costs of labor needed to convert the containers into a house that Aurita and her family can call 'home.'
We need your help to finish the housing project - which will involve converting the containers in to a house, transporting them to Aurita's land on Vieques and installing them on the property - and to give her a new lease on life. The deadline for finishing the project is April 2018, since their child is due in May and we'd love to have him welcomed into the world in a safe, stable home to two loving and grateful parents.
Hurricane Maria may have left a trail of destruction in her path across Puerto Rico, but 'Hurricane Rita' has left an indelible mark on all of us with her effervescent smile and sense of humor, even in the face of so much loss and adversity. Please help us finish what's been started, and help remind Staff Sergeant Maldonado that the sacrifices she made for our nation do not go overlooked.